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North Korea's Choe Son Hui appointed first vice foreign minister

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's Choe Son Hui appointed first vice foreign minister
North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui (L) has been promoted and has been conferred a new title and rank in the regime. File Photo by Bui Lam Khanh Vietnam/EPA-EFE

April 12 (UPI) -- North Korea's senior diplomat on North American affairs was promoted to first vice foreign minister as Kim Jong Un began the second term of his rule, following the 14th Supreme People's Assembly on Thursday that included elections of officials to state institutions.

Pyongyang's Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun on Friday showed Choe, one of the few women in the top ranks of the regime's bureaucracy, is rising in status following the U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam.

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The latest development comes after the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, began to refer to Choe as vice minister on March 22.

Choe played a key role in working-level talks leading up to the first and second U.S.-North Korea summits, along with Kim Yong Chol, a former military intelligence official possibly responsible for the attack on a warship that killed nearly 50 South Koreans.

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Choe took questions from reporters after the collapsed summit in Hanoi and acted as a spokeswoman in the aftermath of the breakdown of talks.

Kim Yong Chol, who met with U.S. President Donald Trump twice at the White House to deliver letters from Kim Jong Un, is now a member of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, and is one of four diplomatic officials in the council.

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It is unclear whether Kim Yong Chol's responsibility for dealing with the United States has been fully reassigned to Choe. A previous South Korean report suggested he may no longer be the lead negotiator for discussions with Seoul or Washington.

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Choe Ryong Hae, often known as the second or third most powerful person in the regime, is vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission and was appointed titular head of state, Yonhap reported Friday.

Choe replaces Kim Yong Nam.

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