Sept. 1 (UPI) -- North Korea's most powerful politicians made a high-profile visit to farmland hit by Typhoon Bavi, according to Pyongyang's state media on Tuesday.
The entourage of North Korean leaders did not include Kim Jong Un, who has already visited South Hwanghae Province.
KCNA reported Tuesday Ri Pyong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and member of Pyongyang's Politburo, led the delegation.
Ri provided field guidance amid disaster recovery at the Nulsan, Changpa and Hak Rim cooperative farms, KCNA said. Ri is the leading developer of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and is usually not assigned to economic field guidance, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap's analysis.
Ri played a crucial role in switching North Korea's programs from liquid to solid fuel. In 2017, the United States sanctioned Ri for his role in North Korea's ballistic missile programs.
Ri is taking on duties that were once the responsibility of former North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju, who may have been recently demoted. Ri led a delegation of North Korean diplomats and officials in charge of South Korea relations, according to Yonhap.
The delegation's visit to North Korea's farming cooperatives was also featured in the front pages of the Rodong Sinmun and the Minju Choson, ahead of a brief article about Kim Jong Un.
Last week South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young said North Korea could be transitioning from a "one-man-centered governance system" to "party-centered governance."
Heavy downpours and typhoons have hurt crops in North Korea, where food remains scarce and the fragile healthcare system may not be capable of handling a coronavirus pandemic.
The United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Monday the agency has secured only 5% of funds necessary to assist North Korea with COVID-19. The agency has only $1.8 million to combat the virus in the North.