North Korean vice foreign minister Choe Hui Chol has been moved to the European affairs department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), sources confirmed to NK News on Wednesday.
Choe will replace Vice-Minister Han Song Ryol, who was until this month responsible for both MOFA’s European Affairs Department 2 and North American Affairs Department.
Choe will now lead MOFA’s diplomacy with European nations that include UN Security Council members the UK and France, having previously represented Asian Affairs Department 2, which includes countries like Australia, India, and Pakistan, among others.
But it is unclear whether his new appointment will see him lose responsibility for Asian Affairs Department 2: as Vice-Minister Han Song Ryol showed, it’s possible to hold responsibility for two departments in North Korea’s foreign ministry.
The shuffle comes follows the promotion earlier in the month of Choe Son Hui – previously the director of MOFA’s North American department – to vice-ministerial level, taking responsibility for the U.S. and Canada aspects of Han’s former portfolio.
It is unclear what Han’s new responsibilities will be, though one informed diplomatic source speculated he may return to New York City, having previously served as Ambassador in the DPRK’s UN mission.
There are believed to be six vice-ministerial positions in North Korea’s foreign ministry, with the most senior being held by first vice-foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan.
The changes together may suggest a broader reshuffle at the DPRK foreign ministry is taking place, last seen in 2016 when Ri Yong Ho was promoted to Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In his role as vice-minister at Asian Affairs Department 2, Choe in November issued a press statement that condemned Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for describing North Korea as a “criminal state.”
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is the way I ought to respond to the Australian prime minister who hurled unreasonable abuse at the DPRK in defiance of international norms of etiquette and courtesy,” Choe said in his statement.
He also visited Iran last year, as part of a four-day diplomatic trip to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the opening of a newly-constructed DPRK embassy.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: Paris by Cristiano M Dalbem on 2013-08-24 21:13:17