North to appoint new ambassador, minister to China

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North to appoint new ambassador, minister to China


BEIJING - North Korea will have its first new ambassador to China in 10 years and will also replace the minister at the mission, multiple sources here said.

According to sources, Choe Jin-soo will be replaced by Choe Byong-ryol, currently director general of consular affairs at the Foreign Ministry. In addition, Kim Song-gi, minister at the North Korean embassy here since 2004, will be succeeded by Pak Myong-ho, deputy director general of Chinese affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

Sources said it is highly unusual for North Korea to change both its ambassador and its deputy chief of mission to China, the closest North Korea has to an ally. The two have had diplomatic ties for 60 years.

“I heard the agreement for the new ambassador reached the Chinese Foreign Ministry earlier this month,” one of the sources said. “We could see the new head of mission by late this month or early next month.”

Another source noted that Kim, who had been a deputy nuclear negotiator at the six-party talks, will return to Pyongyang as vice foreign minister. It’s not clear where Choe Jin-soo is headed after his Beijing post.

If named, Choe Byong-ryol would be the lowest-ranked North Korean official to serve at the embassy to China. Choe Jin-soo, who became the ambassador in 2000, is the vice foreign minister-level diplomat who has been a deputy chief of the international affairs department at the Workers’ Party.

China has also sent high-level veterans to represents its missions to Pyongyang. The current ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, is a vice-minister. Liu Hongcai, who has been nominated as the successor, also serves at the vice-minister level and is currently the deputy head of the international liaison department at the Chinese Communist Party.

Little is known about the career of Choe Byong-ryol. He has spent most of his time at the Foreign Ministry but it’s not clear if he has been with the Workers’ Party or if he has been overseas. Sources suspected the North wanted to put a fresh face in Beijing and enter a new phase in the North-China relationship. Pak Myong-ho is considered one of the Chinese experts at the Foreign Ministry. He had previously worked at the North Korean Embassy here in the early 1990s.



By Chang Se-jeong [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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