January 05, 2023 12:08
Former North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho was executed in a purge of senior diplomats last year, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported Wednesday.
Along with Ri, four or five North Korean Foreign Ministry officials appear to have been executed, it added citing sources. They are believed to have been killed last summer or fall.
The newspaper said their execution appears to be linked to their activities in the North Korean Embassy in the U.K., which became a global embarrassment for the regime when the deputy ambassador, Thae Yong-ho, defected to South Korea in 2016.
Ri was foreign minister from 2016 to 2020 and is an expert on U.S. affairs. He played key roles in North Korea's high-level negotiations from Geneva in 1994 to the abortive Hanoi summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.
He was a well-connected establishment figure whose father, Ri Myong-je, was guardian of the North Korean leader's household.
The Yomiuri speculated that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wanted to warn the country's diplomats of the consequences of defection by executing Ri.
Thae, who is now a conservative lawmaker here, said, "We must first verify the rumors of Ri Yong-ho's execution. If Ri and his colleagues were executed, that means the pro-negotiation faction in the regime has weakened, and our North Korea policy has to be fine-tuned to reflect that change."
The Unification Ministry here only said it has no confirmation of the report.
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