North Korea's former Ambassador to Spain Kim Hyok-chol has been named the new interlocutor to lead negotiations with Washington ahead of the second summit between US President Donald Trump and Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un, the media reported.
Citing an unnamed source, Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday that Kim Hyok-chol will be the new counterpart to Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea.
Kim Hyok-chol replaces Choe Son-hui, the Vice Foreign Minister and a seasoned diplomat, who played a key role in preparations for first summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un in June 2018.
The news agency said the new interlocutor was part of the delegation accompanying former North Korean military intelligence chief, Kim Yong-chol, to Washington last week to meet Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and finalize details of the second summit.
The second summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un is expected by the end of February. Vietnam has been reported to be the likely venue.
The reason behind the new appointment was not known immediately but Pompeo had indirectly referred to it in Davos on Tuesday, saying Biegun had an opportunity to meet his "newly designated counterpart" in Washington, Efe news reported.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe has had extensive experience in dealing with the US and had taken part in talks held in the 1990s and in the last decade.
Kim Hyok-chol was the first and only North Korean ambassador to Spain. He headed North Korea's diplomatic mission in Madrid since it opened its doors for the first time in January 2004, and was ambassador until September 2017, when he was expelled in response to repeated nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang.
North Korean and US officials have expressed hope that the second summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un will restart denuclearization talks.
In the first summit in Singapore in June, the two leaders agreed to work for the denuclearization of the regime in exchange for security guarantees from Washington but there has hardly been any progress due to the lack of a roadmap.