Media reports say North Korea has picked its former ambassador to Vietnam, Kim Myong-gil , as its new chief nuclear envoy who'll be the counterpart of the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun.
The reports say Kim Myong-gil is replacing the North's special representative for U.S. affairs, Kim Hyok-chol , who led working-level negotiations in February and was reportedly executed in March in a purge after the Hanoi summit resulted in a deadlock.
In an interview Wednesday with Radio Free Asia, senior foreign leadership analyst Ken Gause, with the Washington-based CNA Analysis and Solutions, said Kim Myong-gil would be the right person to lead the new talks, given his experience and rank.
Kim Myong-gil was formerly deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York and has participated in the six-party denuclearization talks.
Most recently, he served as ambassador to Vietnam for three years and eight months including when the Hanoi summit was held in February.
Kim Myong-gil returned to Pyeongyang in April after finishing his term.
There had been some speculation that First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui might serve as Beigun's counterpart, but Gause said that's unlikely considering that she outranks Biegun.
Instead, Choe will likely wield her influence behind-the-scenes tasked with coming up with strategies for the talks.
Based on this, the expert said, it seems the North has reorganized its negotiating team around Choe's foreign ministry, rather than the United Front Department, the agency that handles inter-Korean affairs and had led the U.S. talks before.
Citing a diplomatic source, multiple media outlets in South Korea report that Pyeongyang may have informed Washington about its new working-level team last Sunday, the day of their leaders' landmark encounter at the Demilitarized Zone.
As for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it's speculated that his counterpart in the talks will be North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri-Yong-ho.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.