When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok on Thursday, one man was conspicuous by his absence.
Kim Yong Chol — a hard-line veteran, four-star general, former spy chief and one of Kim Jong Un’s closest aides — was nowhere to be seen.
Until now, Kim Yong Chol had been at the forefront of North Korea’s diplomatic outreach and in charge of denuclearization talks with the United States, personally delivering a letter from his leader to President Trump in January, and acting as counterpart to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
But South Korea’s National Intelligence Service believes that Kim Yong Chol has been removed from his post as head of the United Front Department, a ruling-party body in charge of ties with South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a lawmaker.
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