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North Korea diplomats sidelined ahead of talks

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on February 20, 2019 - Duration: 01:46s

North Korea diplomats sidelined ahead of talks

Veteran North Korean diplomats are being sidelined from nuclear talks ahead of a second summit with the United States.

Zachary Goelman reports.

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North Korea diplomats sidelined ahead of talks

Ahead of a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is re-shuffling and in some cases purging top diplomats from his ranks.

Those sidelined include Choe Son Hui, seen here in in Singapore helping lay the groundwork for Kim's historic first meeting with Trump.

Choe, as Vice Foreign Minister, traveled to Beijing and Moscow last October.

But she's been replaced by little-known Kim Hyok Chol, who now spearheads talks with U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun.

Others have met a harsh fate, such as Han Song Ryol.

One of the North's best-known envoys, Han for years manned the so-called "New York channel" a key conduit between Washington and Pyongyang.

But he's been out of the public eye for the past year.

A diplomatic source told Reuters Han was purged after being accused of spying for the U.S. and embezzling funds.

A former North Korean diplomat-turned-defector said he believes Han was likely sent to a labor camp or executed.

An official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said the reports on Han could not be confirmed.

But a South Korean official said that Pyongyang is reshuffling its diplomats as Kim Jong Un questions their loyalty and ideological commitment.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "I think that North Korea and Chairman Kim have some very positive things in mind and we'll soon find out." Trump has repeatedly praised the North Korean dictator since the two agreed to meet last June.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "We've really established a very good relationship.

A lot of good things are happening." A 2017 report by a defector-run think tank in Seoul said more than 70 officials have been executed since Kim took power in late 2011.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "He wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters.

We fell in love." The leaders are set to meet again in Hanoi next week.

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