South Korean leader to meet Donald Trump to resolve nuclear impasse

Minnie Murray
April 14, 2019

North Korea has replaced its long-serving head of state with a close aide to leader Kim Jong Un, promoting a man who was placed on a USA sanctions list past year for alleged human rights abuses, state media said Friday.

Both Trump and Moon are heavily invested in bringing North Korea out of the cold but the unsuccessful summit in Vietnam at the end of February was a setback for the two allies that has yet to be resolved.

Media reports said a third summit would follow on Trump's historic breakthrough past year, when he meets Kim in Singapore.

North Korea has also been careful not to criticise Trump personally, while saying last month that sanctions against it were an "action against humanity to destroy modern civilisation and turn the society back in a mediaeval dark age". But Pyongyang said it asked only for a partial lifting of the sanctions in exchange for dismantling its main nuclear site.

During key party meetings held ahead of the parliamentary session, Kim stressed the importance of "self-reliance" repeatedly and urged his people to follow through on the party's strategic line of economic development.

In that position, Choe will be the constitutional head of state, and is likely to be the public face of North Korea at many official functions.

In a message congratulating Kim on his re-election as chairman, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China highly values its friendship with North Korea and is willing to push forward the bilateral relations, China's official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.

Some analysts had pointed to the possibility that, after the failure of the Hanoi summit, Kim Jong-un would opt to change these delegates. The big question is whether either side has a way to come up with a compromise to get things moving again. Bolton is seen as a major hawk on North Korea, while Moon, who has positioned himself as an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang, takes a more nuanced approach.

Speaking at a plenary session of the central committee of the ruling Workers' party of Korea on Wednesday, Kim did not mention the United States by name or refer to North Korean nuclear weapons, but analysts saw his reference to "hostile forces" as a clear attempt to increase pressure on Washington. "He's saying North Korea would take an independent course unless the US offered to lift sanctions".

Kim was first elected chairman of this commission in June 2016, when this body was originally created.

"At this point, I think President Moon will arrange a call or meeting with Chairman Kim in the near future to convey President Trump's desire to continue negotiations and willingness to demonstrate flexibility", Aum said.

Mr Choe was one of the three officials sanctioned by the U.S. in December over allegations of rights abuses.

Choe was one of the most powerful officials in North Korea as head of the Workers' Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), according to database North Korea Leadership Watch.

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