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North Korea appoints veteran diplomat as first female foreign minister

North Korea has named veteran diplomat Choe Son-hui as its first female foreign minister, state media reported on Saturday, as Pyongyang pursues a blitz of weapons testing against sanctions and ignores US pleas to talks.

Choe, who previously served as the North’s deputy foreign minister, was tapped to head the foreign ministry at a ruling party meeting overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, state media KCNA reported.

She replaces Ri Son Gwon, a hardline former military official who previously held talks with the South.

A career diplomat who speaks fluent English, Choe was a close aide to Kim during the nuclear talks with the United States and accompanied the North Korean leader to summits with then-US President Donald Trump.

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She held a rare question-and-answer session with reporters the night the two leaders’ summit in Hanoi collapsed without a deal in February 2019, blaming Washington for the breakdown of the talks.

“I think the United States missed a golden opportunity with their rejection of our proposals,” she said.

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Diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington has since stalled, with the Kim regime failing in recent months to respond to repeated offers from the United States to resume negotiations.

The nuclear-armed North has meanwhile carried out a series of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including firing a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017.

US and South Korean officials have also warned that the Kim regime is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test – a move that Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said would provoke a “swift and forceful” response. .

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