SEOUL, NETRALNEWS.COM - North Korean state media on Friday (1/24/2020) confirmed that former defense commander Ri Son Gwon, who had little diplomatic experience, had been appointed as the new foreign minister of the country.
The official North Korean news agency, KCNA, reported that Ri delivered a ministerial address at the New Year's dinner banquet held by the foreign ministry on Thursday (1/23/2020) for foreign embassies and international organizations.
Ri is the latest military official to be promoted under the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A source in the diplomatic circle in Seoul told Reuters that North Korea had told countries that had an embassy in Pyongyang last week about Ri replacing Ri Yong Ho as North Korea's foreign minister.
Ri is a former military officer and currently a high-ranking Labor official in power.
Ri's appointment was a surprise to North Korean observers, amid stalled talks between Pyongyang and Washington over nuclear disarmament.
Ri's appointment was a surprise because he had no experience in dealing with nuclear issues or with US officials.
Ri's predecessor was a career diplomat and a very experienced negotiator.
However, the new foreign minister once led North Korea in high-level inter-Korean talks in 2018. At that time, he assumed the role of chair of the Peace Reunification Committee, which handles issues related to South Korea.