North Korea’s foreign minister plans to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, according to reports released on Saturday.
Ri Su-yong will be the first North Korean foreign minister to visit the U.S. in 15 years. He is expected to deliver a keynote speech at the session as a state representative. The last time a North Korean foreign minister visited the U.S. was in 1999.
Ri’s upcoming trip is drawing keen interest from political observers, not only in South Korea but also out of the country. Some say Ri’s visit could be part of plans to seek improved ties between Pyongyang and Washington, adding that the possibility is high for Ri to hold talks with his counterparts in the U.S.
However, others say the visit could further aggravate concerns in the global community about North Korea, as the communist regime has repeatedly rejected international calls to improve human rights issues and abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Others say that it would be difficult to improve ties considering North Korea’s continuous denouncements of the U.S.
North Korean envoys to the U.N. have held news conferences at its headquarters in New York in which they referred to the U.S. as an “invader.”
Ri’s visit to New York will also be closely watched as the U.N. is likely to address human right abuses in North Korea during the meeting.
In March, a U.N. investigative panel concluded that the North Korean regime had committed grave crimes against humanity without “parallel in the contemporary world.” The panel in its report urged the U.N. Security Council to refer leaders of the communist regime to the International Criminal Court. North Korea has dismissed the report as fabricated.
In this regard, some predict that Ri is planning to attend the meeting to defend Pyongyang against international condemnation over its nuclear weapons program, human rights abuses and missile launches.
North Korea’s abrupt decision to send Ri to New York also came shortly after it withdrew its proposal to send cheerleaders to the Incheon Asian Games.
South Korea on Friday expressed regret over the North’s revocation of a decision to send a cheering squad to the upcoming Asian Games in Incheon, denying Pyongyang’s accusations that Seoul had begrudged its earlier pledge.
Son Kwang-ho, vice chairman of the North’s Olympic Committee, announced the cancellation during an interview on state television late Thursday, citing the South’s “anxiety, complaints and displeasure” over the plans.
The communist country will still dispatch 273 athletes, coaches, referees and related officials.
The two Koreas have been waging a war of nerves since their talks fell apart in mid-July on the North Korean team’s lodging, transportation and other arrangements during the Asian Games set for Sept. 19-Oct. 4.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)