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North Korea U.S. negotiator could be headed to Vienna, analyst says

North Korea U.S. negotiator could be headed to Vienna, analyst says
North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il could be leading nuclear negotiations in Vienna as Pyongyang's representative in the near future, a U.S. analyst says. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

March 17 (UPI) -- A North Korean diplomat previously in charge of negotiations with the United States could be tapped as Pyongyang's top envoy to Austria, a key position that interfaces with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Choe Kang Il, the deputy director-general for North America at Pyongyang's foreign ministry, could succeed Kim Kwang Sop, the son-in-law of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. Kim Kwang Sop is also leader Kim Jong Un's uncle.

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Choe, who played a key role in negotiations with the United States, ahead of the second summit in Vietnam between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, could be headed to Vienna, according to a U.S. analyst.

Ken Gause of CNA Corp., a nonprofit research firm in Arlington, Va., says the Austrian ambassadorship is an important post for the North Koreans, Radio Free Asia reported.

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For Pyongyang, effective dealing with the IAEA could have financial implications for North Korea, which is under heavy economic sanctions, the analyst said.

Choe's task may be to mitigate the impact of sanctions on North Korea's economy through diplomacy with European nations once U.S.-North Korea negotiations resume, Gause said, according to RFA.

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Choe has been in charge of U.S. negotiations following the promotion of Choe Son Hui, another North Korean negotiator, to the position of first vice foreign minister.

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North Korea has declined to take further steps toward denuclearization in 2019, following what Pyongyang described was a breakdown in talks with the United States in Sweden last fall. The Trump administration has stepped up military capabilities since that time.

The United States Space Force said last week in a press release it has acquired the Counter Communications System Block 10.2, a "first offensive weapon system" in the force.

"The Counter Communications System, first introduced in 2004, is a transportable space electronic warfare system that reversibly denies adversary satellite communications," the Space Force said.

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In 2019, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said North Korea poses a challenge to space security and possesses the capabilities to track and target satellites.

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