North Korea will not be sending vice foreign minister Kim Son Gyong to next week’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), a diplomatic source confirmed to NK News on Thursday.
The move quashes speculation that the DPRK would send Kim — currently the DPRK’s top diplomat dealing with Europe — to the MSC, set to take place in the southern German city next week.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are expected to attend the conference, with South Korea’s foreign ministry earlier today telling NK News that minister Kang Kyung-wha may also be there.
Kim’s attendance, as a result, would have offered a rare chance for bilateral talks with U.S. and ROK officials — and an opportunity for the first high-level person-to-person contact between the countries since DPRK-U.S. working-level talks last October.
Those talks concluded without an agreement between negotiators, serving to further entrench a now almost-year-long deadlock in diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
Vice foreign minister Kim was originally expected to participate in a February 15 evening session focused on the Korean peninsula, NK News understands, in a move which would have marked the first time a North Korean official had participated in the annual event.
Organizers learned last night that Kim would not be attending, NK News understands, with ongoing novel coronavirus containment and quarantine measures taken by the North Korean state preventing him from traveling abroad.
Cross-border train routes to North Korea from China and Russia were recently suspended amid concerns about the virus, with North Korean national airline Air Koryo also canceling flights in an effective ban on travel into and out of the country.
Edited by Oliver Hotham