June 26, 2019 10:56
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Yo-jong has been promoted to a leadership position since his failed summit with the U.S. in Hanoi, even as his right-hand man Kim Yong-chol took the fall, the National Intelligence Service here said Tuesday.
The NIS’ assessment is based on photographs and video footage from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to North Korea.
Briefed by the NIS, Bareun Mirae Party lawmaker Lee Hye-hoon said Kim Yo-jong’s new role became apparent during Xi’s visit.
Photographs show her standing in the same line as Choe Ryong-hae, the head of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong. When Kim greeted Xi at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, she stood next to senior Workers Party officials and ahead of Gen. Kim Su-gil, the head of the People’s Army.
During Xi’s visit, the bandleader of the Samjiyon Orchestra, Hyon Song-wol, took charge of diplomatic protocol, which used to be handled by his sister.
One former intelligence official said her promotion could be aimed at establishing her as a successor in case of an emergency.
The NIS pointed out that Kim Yong-chol, who was once in charge of diplomacy, briefly showed up after purge reports but was absent during the summit. “This demonstrates that his status has declined,” Lee said.
The NIS predicted increased economic and military support from China following Xi’s visit. “Judging by the participation of economic and military officials, the two sides appear to have discussed economic support without breaching international sanctions,” Lee added.
The NIS said it is unprecedented for so many economic officials to accompany a Chinese president to North Korea. Support could include food and fertilizer aid as well more tourism.
The red-carpet treatment North Korea gave Xi underscores the growing closeness between the two communist allies. The NIS said Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju accompanied Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan to their guesthouse at night and stayed with them during 60 percent of their itinerary.
With Xi’s surprise visit, Kim Jong-un seems to have consolidated his grip on power despite the failure of the Hanoi summit, the NIS said.
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