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North Korea bolsters diplomatic lineup amid stalled US talks

AP  |  Seoul 

North Korean leader has retained his most important leadership post as his rubber-stamp parliament made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated nuclear diplomacy with the

Some observers say the personnel appointments could show Kim's desire to keep nuclear diplomacy alive rather than returning to a policy of ratcheting up tensions. In Washington, and visiting South Korean met Thursday and agreed on the importance of nuclear talks with

The North's Korean Agency reported Friday that Kim was re-elected as of the at the first session of the on Thursday. It said the assembly re-elected Kim because of "his outstanding ideological and theoretical wisdom and experienced and seasoned leadership." The 35-year-old Kim holds many government, military and ruling party leadership titles, but he officially rules the country in his capacity as the commission The assembly had first elected him to that post in 2016.

KCNA also published a list of other officials elected to top state posts. Among them is Choe Ryong Hae, one of Kim's top lieutenants who was made of the assembly's Presidium. Choe was also elected to first vice-of the State Affairs Commission, a new post.

By the constitution, the presidium president post is North Korea's nominal though all state power is heavily concentrated on Kim, the third-generation of a family that has ruled the North since 1948.

Choe's election to head the presidium means the departure of 91-year-old Kim Yong Nam, who has served all three generations of the ruling Kim family. His retirement has long been expected due to his age.

Three of the four senior officials involved in the nuclear negotiations with the have been re-elected or newly elected to members of Kim Jong Un's state commission.

Among them was former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, who travelled to and met Trump twice ahead of Kim Jong Un's two summits with the president last year.

The fate of had been the focus of South Korean since the second Kim-Trump summit ended without any agreement due to disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North. The who wasn't mentioned in the assembly-elected lineup is Kim Hyok Chol, the North's affairs.

The North's latest personnel changes show Choe strengthened his status as No. 2.

His appointment to of the state commission could also allow him to oversee the diplomacy while having the nuclear negotiators and others in the commission under his control, some observers say.

Choe has been a rising star since took power in late 2011. He went and as Kim's special envoy, and has assumed a series of high-profile jobs including the top in the North's 1.2 million-member military. In 2015, however, South Korea's spy agency speculated that he was briefly banished to a rural collective farm for reeducation.

"It's a positive sign that Choe has gained greater influence in negotiations" with the United States, said at

He said there is a high chance for to send Choe as his

Cheong said much of the responsibility for the failed nuclear diplomacy with the should be go to Kim Yong Chol, a hardline former military general blamed for two attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, April 12 2019. 11:35 IST