North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Su Yong is likely to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly later this month, according to an unnamed “diplomatic source” quoted by South Korean daily newspaper the JoongAng Ilbo.
“North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong will go to New York in the latter half of September and is known to have applied to make a speech at the [UN] General Assembly,” the source told the newspaper.
“If things go as planned, this will mark the first time a North Korean foreign minister has gone to New York in 15 years,” the source continued.
The 69th sitting of the United Nations General Assembly will open on Tuesday, 16 September.
If true, this will be only the third time that a North Korean foreign minister has attended a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in the country’s history – the late Paek Nam-sun attended in 1999, and in 1992 Kim Yong-nam attended.
Honorary fellow in Korean Studies at Leeds University Aidan Foster-Carter told NK News that the news could signify a significant improvement in DPRK-US relations.
“Given that Obama has just changed his NK team, and 6 years of ‘strategic patience’ has got nowhere, it wouldn’t surprise me if both the US and DPRK were to put out feelers at this point,” he said.
“How far it will go is something else,” he added, “but Ken Bae and the other two’s chances of being freed have just improved, I reckon”.
Kenneth Bae is an American citizen currently serving 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, while two other Americans, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller were detained in April and are currently awaiting trial.
All three expressed their hopes on Monday that the U.S. could secure their release and bring about an end to their ongoing detention in the DPRK.
Ri Su-yong replaced Pak Ui-chun as the North Korean foreign minister in April, analysis of the North Korean leadership tracker shows, in the days immediately following the parliamentary elections.
When contacted to confirm the news, the South Korean Foreign Ministry told NK News that they could not confirm the story, as it is believed to have come from sources in the United Nations.
Photo credit: UN General Assembly/Wikimedia commons
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