PYONGYANG, North Korea - North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has reportedly been replaced.
The NK News portal broke the news on Saturday, quoting sources in Pyongyang.
Ho was one of the senior officials on the negotiating team in summits between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
It was he that addressed a press conference following the last, aborted, summit in Hanoi, and told reporters the reasons for the acrimonious end to the meeting, reasons that differed form those given by Mr Trump.
The U.S. president had said North Korea "wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn't do that."
Ho disagreed, saying: "What we proposed was not the removal of all sanctions but the partial removal." He said eleven sanctions had been imposed by the U.S. between 2016 and 2017 and North Korea wanted relief from 5 of them. In exchange it was prepared to disable its main nuclear complex. He said North Korea was prepared to "permanently and completely dismantle all the nuclear material production facilities in the Yongbyon area, including plutonium and uranium, in the presence of U.S. experts."
The removal of Ho is seen as part of a broader reshuffle of North Korean officials. He is the second key figure on the negotiating team with the U.S. to be replaced. Han Song-ryol, the vice foreign minister was reportedlt sacked and sent to a labor camp in September 2018.
Ho is expected to be replaced by Ri Son Gwon, the former chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), multiple informed sources told NK News.
Gwon who played a prominent role in inter-Korean talks in early 2018. He has also served as an official at the Policy Department of the now-defunct National Defence Commission (NDC).
According to NK News, he was once known as the right-hand man of Kim Yong Chol, director of the United Front Department, and appeared at a second round of inter-Korean working-level military talks in October 2006
It is understood his new role will be confirmed by state media in coming days.
Ri Yong Ho, who had served as North Korea's top diplomat since 2016. He has spent the best part of four decades in foreign relations.
He has been foreign minister for all of the negotiations with Mr Trump, and with leaders of other governments including South Korea, Russia, China and Cuba.
A photo of top North Korean officials taken earlier this month did not include Ho, and speculation circulated that he had been replaced, the NK News report said.