SEOUL: A United Nations veteran was on Sunday appointed as South Korea’s first female foreign minister, tasked with easing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Kang Kyung-Wha, 62, served as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs before becoming a senior policy adviser to UN chief Antonio Guterres this year.
Her appointment by President Moon Jae-In comes less than two weeks before Moon’s first trip to the US for a summit with President Donald Trump as fears grow over Pyongyang’s weapons program.
The isolated regime has staged a series of missile launches this year, defying global pressure and triggering tightened UN sanctions.
Kang served at the South’s foreign ministry for years before joining the UN.
Her diplomatic experience will help the South navigate tricky waters and tackle sensitive issues with allies and neighbors, Moon’s office said earlier.
Moon, a center-left politician who took office after the ousting of impeached president Park Geun-Hye, has advocated dialogue with the North to bring it to the negotiating table — in a break from his conservative predecessors who took a hardline stance.
Ties with the US have also come under some strain recently over the controversial deployment of a US anti-missile system in the South. The deployment has soured relations with China, which sees the system as a threat.
The South under Park agreed last year to install the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to guard against threats from the North, prompting Beijing to deploy informal economic sanctions against South Korean businesses in April.
Though parts of system are already in place, Moon this month suspended further deployment.
Officially, the delay is to allow time for a new comprehensive environmental impact assessment, but analysts say the move is a strategic delay by Moon to handle the tricky diplomatic situation he inherited.