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North Korean nuclear envoy emerges at art show after labor exile

North Korean nuclear envoy emerges at art show after labor exile

A senior North Korean official, who was reported last week as being the victim of a purge, has reappeared in public sitting not far from the country's leader, Kim Jong Un.

On Sunday, the North Korean leader was also seen enjoying the concert by the wives of Korean People's Army officers alongside his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) noted.

Last week, the worldwide media reported that Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean leader's right-hand man was sentenced to hard labor and ideological re-education at a camp near the Chinese border, as part of a purge of officials who were involved in the failed summit between the US and North Korea.

Chosun Ilbo also reported that Senior Envoy Kim Hyok-chol, who was involved in pre-summit working-level talks with American officials, was executed with four other officials from the North's Foreign Ministry for betraying Kim Jong-un after being won over by the United States.

Reports of these deaths could not be confirmed by Seoul's spy service, according to the Associated Press.

He said: "If Kim Jong Un sentences senior officials to hard labor, executes them, or puts them in political prison camps over the collapse of meetings, then no official would be willing to step up in external negotiations".

The reported executions and purge, which the newspaper claimed were in response to February's failed U.S.

Experts say the North is using measured brinkmanship aimed at increasing pressure on Washington without actually causing the negotiations to collapse.

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It added that Kim Yong-chol is going through hard labor in a remote province. It was not clear if Kim Yong Chol, a former spymaster, had earlier been sent to a camp and later released.

But Lee said the fact that Kim Yong Chol did not accompany his leader to Russian Federation - and that he earlier had reportedly been replaced as head of the United Front Department, a ruling-party body in charge of ties with South Korea - implied "a demotion in a way".

Kim Hyok-chol may appear alongside Kim Jong-un at a later date, as well.

When asked on Sunday about the last time there was contact between the USA and Chol - or North Korea in general, Pompeo demurred, saying, "We conduct our negotiations in private".

That move may have cleared the way for long-time diplomats sidelined during last year's process to take centerstage if talks with the United States resumed, analysts said.

To some Korea watchers the story was at least plausible, as North Korea has a long history of such purges and Kim had been left vulnerable following the failure of his Vietnam summit with Trump. Both Seoul and Washington imposed sanctions on him in recent years.

He was another key figure in talks ahead of the US-North Korea summit held in February.


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