Asia North Korea’s Kim shuffles nuclear talks team after defections, spying allegations

North Korea’s Kim shuffles nuclear talks team after defections, spying allegations

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

 Veteran North Korean diplomats are being sidelined from nuclear talks ahead of a second summit with the United States as recent defections and allegations of spying undermine the trust of leader Kim Jong Un, South Korean officials and experts say.

Kim has purged and replaced many top diplomats and officials who served his father and grandfather with new, younger advisors as he gears up to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam next week.

Among the most significant changes, Kim has appointed little-known Kim Hyok Chol to spearhead working-level talks with U.S. nuclear envoy Stephen Biegun.

A former ambassador to Spain who was expelled in 2017 after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, Kim Hyok Chol has been working at the State Affairs Commission, a top governing body chaired by the young leader, a South Korean official said.

He replaced Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who led negotiations in the run up to the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore in June.