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N. Korea taps Ri Yong-ho as top diplomat: source

All Headlines 17:51 May 17, 2016

SEOUL, May 17 (Yonhap) -- A senior government official confirmed Tuesday a media report that North Korea has tapped Ri Yong-ho as its new foreign minister, an appointment some analysts see as a sign that Pyongyang is pushing to improve ties with the outside world.

Earlier, the Associated Press reported that Ri has been appointed as the country's new top diplomat, saying that the North's embassy in London informed the British government of its decision. The 60-year-old career diplomat has served as vice foreign minister of the communist country.

"We have our own intelligence showing that the appointment has been made," a foreign ministry official here said. "We will closely watch developments until the North makes an official announcement about that."

Speculation has been swirling that Ri would be the next top diplomat for North Korea as incumbent minister Ri Su-yong was elected to a position that would not allow him to manage the country's diplomatic policy.

The newly-tapped minister Ri is seen a someone with a large amount of experience in talks with the United States. Known to be well versed in English, he also served as the North's top envoy on the long-stalled six-party talks intended to disarm Pyongyang of nuclear programs.

Experts remained cautious about predicting what changes his appointment would bring about in North Korea's overall diplomacy, but some raised the prospect that he could engage more actively in talks with the United States down the road.

"It is hard to expect a change in North Korea's diplomacy right away, but he is the person who will be able to play his fair share of diplomatic role in talks with Washington," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.


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