Missing apparatchik resurfaces

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Missing apparatchik resurfaces

Choe Ryong-hae, a senior North Korean party official, has returned to public activities after a three-week hiatus, Pyongyang’s media showed Thursday, amid rumors that he may have visited China over the country’s missile test or the death of the leader’s half brother.

Choe, a vice chairman of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), was among those who watched a performance to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

He has not shown up at public events since early February, including a key event to mark the 75th birthday of late former leader Kim Jong-il.

His absence had sparked speculation that Choe may have visited China to explain Pyongyang’s Feb. 12 test of an intermediate ballistic missile. Rumors also said that he may have been dismissed from his post.

South Korea’s defense ministry earlier said that it was closely watching whether Choe may have visited China to soothe Beijing’s possible anger over the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-nam, the first son of former leader Kim Jong-il, was killed on Feb. 13 at an airport in Malaysia after being attacked by two Asian women with toxic substances. Kim was believed to have close ties to China.

The North’s current leader is seeking to prevent any figure from wielding excessive power in a bid to maintain his one-man leadership.

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