Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 4 News List

In first for S Korea, Seoul picks woman as foreign minister


South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday appointed a UN veteran as the country’s first female minister of national defense, tasked with easing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Kang Kyung-hwa, 62, served as UN deputy high commissioner for human rights and UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs before becoming a senior policy advisor to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this year.

Her appointment comes less than two weeks before Moon’s first trip to the US for a summit with US President Donald Trump as fears grow over Pyongyang’s weapons programme.

The isolated regime has this year staged a series of missile launches, 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 its allies and neighbors, Moon’s office said earlier.

Moon, a center-left politician who took office after the ouster of impeached South Korean 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 against Pyongyang.

Ties with the US have also come under strain recently over a controversial deployment of a US anti-missile system in the South that soured relations with China, which sees it as a threat.

South Korea under Park agreed last year to install the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system to guard against threats from the North, prompting Beijing to deploy informal economic sanctions against South Korean businesses in April.

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