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North Korea Ex-Nuclear Envoy Named Foreign Minister

North Korea's senior nuclear negotiator Ri Yong Ho, left, leaves after giving a statement to the media in Singapore in this Monday, January 19, 2015, photo. North Korea has named Ri Yong Ho, a career diplomat with broad experience in negotiating with rivals South Korea and the United States as its new foreign minister. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
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North Korea has named Ri Yong Ho its new foreign minister, according to a diplomatic letter sent to Britain.

North Korea’s embassy in London informed the British government about the appointment.

The diplomatic letter did not say what would happen to the current foreign minister, Ri Su Yong. But South Korea’s spy agency said it believes he was named vice chairman for international affairs of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Ri Yong Ho is a career diplomat. The former vice foreign minister served as North Korea’s top negotiator in past nuclear disarmament talks with United States and South Korean representatives. He once served as ambassador to Britain.

Some analysts say Ri’s appointment may be an attempt by the isolated nation to re-start diplomacy with other countries.

International tensions increased this year when North Korea carried out a nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket a month later.

The United Nations Security Council ordered strict sanctions on North Korea for carrying out those tests. The U.N. has also condemned the country’s human rights record.

Observers say the North Korean government may ask Ri to plead his country’s case to the U.N.

Lee Ji-sue is a North Korean expert at Myongji University in South Korea. He says no major policy changes are expected under the new foreign minister.

Lee noted that the former foreign minister took orders from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il. “Ri Yong Ho won’t have much say in foreign policies,” Lee said.

I’m Bryan Lynn. reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. Additional material for the report came from the Reuters news agency. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

disarmament – n. remove or reduce military forces or weapons

isolated – adj. far away from other places or people

strict – adj. strong or exact match to rules

sanction – n. an official order that restricts trade or contacts with a country

predecessor – n. the person who held a job or office before the current holder