North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Ri Yong Ho Appointed 6 Party Talk Rep

DPRK Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and representative to the Six Party Talks Ri Yong Ho speaks with reporters on 22 July (Photo: Xinhua)

Ri Yong Ho has succeeded Kim Kye Kwan as the country’s representative to the Six Party Talks.  Ri met with his ROK counterpart, Wi Sung-lac, on 22 July (Friday) in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of ASEAN’s Regional Security Forum [ARF].  As a result of the meeting, Ri and Wi both said their countries would “make joint efforts” to resume the dialogue over the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program which have not occurred since December 2008.  Ri Yong Ho said his meeting was “frank and constructive” while Wi Sung-lac said the meeting “was constructive and very useful.”

Meanwhile, the man Ri replaced, Kim Kye Kwan, will travel to New York this week for an exploratory interaction with US officials.  Bloomberg reports:

The invitation to First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan followed discussions between South and North Korean officials at a regional security forum in Bali, Indonesia, she said in a statement. The U.S. trip is as “an exploratory meeting” to determine if the North is willing to meet commitments made in earlier talks and make genuine efforts at scrapping its nuclear weapons program, she said.

“We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table,” Clinton said. “We have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.”

North Korea and South Korea two days ago agreed to try to revive the six-party forum on the North’s nuclear-weapons program, with the first formal discussions in months signaling a thawing in relations between the two civil war foes after more than a year of rising tension. The U.S., China, Russia and Japan are also participants in the group.

North Korea’s uranium enrichment activities violate its commitments under a 2005 joint statement by the parties involved in the talks as well as United Nations Security Council resolutions, Clinton said in Bali yesterday. The U.S. won’t back a resumption of six-party talks until North Korea changes its behavior, she said.

The Koreas’ interactions was a publicity triumph for host nation Indonesia, whose foreign minister Marty Natalegawa said, “The fact that the two Koreas met at the officials level and at the senior officials level should not be underestimated. It is important because…if we do it right, we can create fresh momentum for peaceful resolution in addressing the matter in the Korean Peninsula.”

Generation after Generation Appointment

Ri Yong Ho is a career diplomat and 3rd generation (also called 3rd revolutionary generation) member of the DPRK leadership.  He was born in 1954 and attended Namsan Senior Middle School and the Pyongyang University of Foreign Languages.  He served outside the DPRK as a diplomatic secretary in Zimbabwe (1979-1984) and Sweden (1985-1988).  He returned to the DPRK in 1988 and became a manager in MOFA’s international organizations’ bureau.  In 1995 he was appointed councilor at MOFA, a position he held until 2000.  From 2000 to 2007 Ri was a DPRK ambassador-at-large.  From 2007 to 2010 he was once against identified as a MOFA councilor.

On 23 September 2010 Ri was appointed Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He replaced Kim Kye Kwan, who was promoted to Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs after incumbent Kang Sok Ju (Kang So’k-chu) was appointed Vice Premier.  Ri was elected an alternate or candidate member of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee (CC KWP) during the 3rd Party Conference held 28 September 2010.

Ri has attended numerous meetings, negotiations and interactions over the country’s strategic weapons’ programs, going back to 1995.  Ri traveled to the United States in October 2000 with the late NDC 1st Vice Chairman Jo Myong Rok (Cho Myo’ng-nok).  He also traveled with Pak U’i-ch’un to last year’s ARF in Hanoi.  Ri appeared several times during the April 2011 trip to the DPRK made by the Elders, led by former US President Jimmy Carter.

Ri Yong Ho is the son of Ri Myo’ng-che, a former KCNA editor and propaganda official.  Ri Myo’ng-che was also a deputy director of the CC KWP Organization Guidance Department who managed Kim Jong Il’s residences and domestic life.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun (L front) is welcomed by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (R) ahead of their talks in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian island of Bali on July 22, 2011. They met on the sidelines of meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (Kyodo)

Pak Ui Chun Visits Bali

DPRK Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun arrived in Bali for the ASEAN Regional Forum on Thursday, 21 July.  Pak confirmed Ri Yong Ho’s appointment as representative to the 6PT.  Pak also facilitated a Friday announcement (via KCNA) from Pyongyang that the DPRK will appoint an ambassador to ASEAN, although it is not clear who will take on that job.   On 22 July (Friday) he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) shakes hands with Pak Ui Chun, foreign minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), during a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, July 22, 2011. (Xinhua/Jiang Fan)

Saturday was a full day for Pak, as it included several brief meetings with ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.  Pak also engaged with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto over the abduction of Japanese nationals to the DPRK, according to Mainichi Shimbun:

At an annual ministerial meeting of the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali, Indonesia, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun said the abduction issue has been raised repeatedly by Japan, but Pyongyang believes the matter has been settled, according to conference sources.

Matsumoto said he insisted the abduction issue is yet to be settled and urged the North to implement its 2008 accord with Japan by establishing a commission to reinvestigate the whereabouts of abducted Japanese nationals who North Korea says are already dead or never entered the country.

Matsumoto said he did not have one-on-one talks with Pak on the Indonesian resort island.

The exchange of words between Japanese and North Korean foreign ministers is believed to be the first since July 2008, when ministers of the six countries involved in talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea gathered on the sidelines of an ARF meeting in Singapore.

Matsumoto said even though Tokyo does not intend to hold talks with Pyongyang “for the sake of talking,” Japan “keeps open its door for dialogue” with the North.

He said Tokyo will seek cooperation from South Korea, the United States and other concerned parties to resolve the abduction issue.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (L) and his counterpart from the North Pak Ui-chun hold a brief informal meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bali, Indonesia after the divided countries reach an agreement in the previous day to make joint efforts to resume multilateral talks over the North's nuclear program as soon as possible. (Yonhap)

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July 2011