Kim Jong-un has reportedly executed a North Korean minister who once criticised former US president Donald Trump, calling him a liar.
Unconfirmed reports in Japan suggested that politician Ri Yong-ho, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Korea from 2016 to 2020, has been killed.
The alleged execution took place as Kim Jong-un’s regime steps up its testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles including launches over the Christmas period.
Ri, who has not been seen in public since 2019, was an ambassador to Britain from 2003 to 2007 and in 2016 he became foreign minister, before being replaced in 2020.
Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, quoting unnamed courses, reported that the 66-year-old politician was executed last year.
Ri Yong-ho has not been seen in public since 2019
South Korean MP, Youn Kun-young, told parliamentary colleagues that the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) had confirmed that Ri had been “purged” by the regime.
However, reports about the high-profile politician’s allgede execution still remain unconfirmed.
In 2017, amid tensions with the United States, Ri gave a speech to the UN general assembly in which he branded Trump a “Lying King” and “President Evil”.
But despite his open criticism, the minister played a key role in negotiations with the US that led to unprecedented meetings between Trump and Kim.
The former foreign minister branded Donald Trump a liar
Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, said if rumours of Ri’s executions are true, that would be a “bad sign” for North Korea’s diplomacy, The Times reports.
He added: “We don’t know exactly what happened to former foreign minister Ri Yong-ho, but he was likely purged from any position of influence some time ago.
“If he were actually executed, that would be a bad sign for the North Korean foreign ministry and prospects for diplomacy.”
It comes as North Korea’s Supreme Leader prepares to celebrate his 39th birthday on Sunday.
The launch of North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile “Hwasong Gun 17” at Pyongyang International Airport in November 2022
Just before Christmas, the country fired a ballistic missile
at the Sea of Japan days after US and South Korean warplanes conducted joint drills that North Korea viewed as an invasion rehearsal.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch occurred on December 23 but gave no further details, such as what type of weapon was fired and how far it flew.
The US flew nuclear-capable bombers and advanced stealth jets near the Korean Peninsula for joint training with South Korean warplanes on December 20.
North Korea typically calls such military exercises by the US and South Korea an invasion rehearsal.
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