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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea said to pick US expert to lead talks with Washington

Kim Myong Gil was deputy chief of nation's mission to UN

Kim Myong Gil, then a member of North Korea's mission to the United Nations, center, back in August 2007.   © AP

SEOUL -- North Korea is believed to have put a former ambassador to Vietnam who is knowledgeable about American affairs in charge of denuclearization talks with Washington.

Pyongyang notified the U.S. of the change in envoy, South Korean news outlets reported, citing diplomatic sources.

A diplomat long involved in talks with Washington over North Korea's nuclear development since the 1990s, Kim Myong Gil is expected to be the negotiating counterpart to U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at upcoming working-level talks.

Kim served for years in the U.S. section at North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. He became deputy chief of the country's mission to the United Nations in 2006 and was involved in the six-party talks over the North's nuclear program. Kim is known for efforts that led to the lifting of financial sanctions on Macao's Banco Delta Asia that had dealt a severe blow to Pyongyang.

Following Sunday's meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that working-level talks will resume around mid-July. Pompeo and Biegun will likely continue to represent Washington, while the North Korean team will comprise Kim Myong Gil, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.

Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea's special envoy to the U.S., handled working-level talks ahead of the second Trump-Kim summit held in Hanoi at the end of February. But he has reportedly been purged to take responsibility for the failed summit and has not been seen in public since.

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