Amid the nuclear talks deadlock with the United States, North Korea appointed a former defence commander as its new foreign minister. Senior military officer Ri Son Gwon replaced Ri Yong Ho, a career diplomat who was involved in several negotiations with the United States.
According to media reports, the latest appointment can have a huge impact on the stalled nuclear talks as Ri Son Gwon is known for his confrontational role during negotiations. Though he has held high-level talks with South Korea, he has never dealt with nuclear issues that have caused a strenuous relation with Washington.
North Korea is facing sanctions from the United States and had threatened Washington of unspecified action, calling it a ‘Christmas gift’. Speculations were rife that North Korea might test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead but the ‘gift’ eluded Washington on Christmas.
On December 11, US Representative to the United Nations Kelly Craft, while speaking at the Security Council, warned North Korea against further missile and nuclear tests. She had raised concerns about North’s indication of intercontinental ballistic missile tests which will bring the US in its range. Craft said that the US has sought to engage in “robust diplomacy with the DPRK”, but the signs were deeply troubling.
“Let me be clear, we have not asked North Korea to do everything, before we do anything. We are prepared to be flexible, but we cannot solve this problem alone,” remarked the Ambassador after the Council meeting. Craft suggested North Korea avoid provocations and engage in dialogue. “Peace is a better way, and peace can only be achieved by doing this together,” she said.
Later she took to Twitter to assert that North Korea can not achieve greater security and stability with missile and nuclear testing. The Ambassador opined that such tests will rather complicate their ability to negotiate an agreement to address North Korea's security and economic goals. North Korea had recently conducted a nuclear test at the Sohae launch site by going against the process of denuclearisation which drew ire of Trump administration.