The North’s foreign minister who described President Donald Trump as “President Evil” is, in fact, a well-mannered intellectual who has a taste for fine whiskey and is fond of studying the memoirs of past US presidents, according to The Japan Times. But in the recent UNGA, Ri Yong Ho appeared as Kim Jong-un’s fire-breathing mouthpiece. And much like the North’s leader, RI threatened that his country could detonate Hydrogen bombs over the Pacific Ocean as well as shoot down US fighter jets in international airspace.

The secret of North Korea’s foreign minister

Behind the bluster of North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho is known by his friends and colleagues to be soft-spoken and a refined diplomat. Even the United States government officials whom Ri had worked with for years considered him as one of the most approachable diplomats of North Korea, The Japan Times.

In May 2016, Ri Yong Ho got promoted to foreign minister of North Korea because of his shrewdness in making negotiations with the United States. According to Gary Samore, Ri was purposely given that vital role because of his extraordinary negotiating skills with Americans, the Los Angeles Times reported. The North Korean foreign minister has a great sense of humor, Samore added.

Gary Samore, who was an ex U.S. diplomat as well as a nonproliferation specialist now at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, has known Ri Yong Ho for over 20 years.

A glimpse of Ri

In 1994, Ri and Samore drafted the details of the nuclear freeze deal, also known as the Agreed Framework, under the Clinton administration.

This was their first meeting. Ten years after, Ri became an important negotiator in six-nation dialogues, which were hosted by the Chinese government. Following that, Ri began attending back-channel negotiations with prominent Americans who looked for an alternative approach to North Korea.

Ri might pass as a senior South Korean executive with his well-groomed appearance, except for the mandatory red badge attached to his lapel.

And just like other officials of North Korea, Ri’s age remains uncertain, but the Korean Leadership Watch website revealed his birth date as 1954. He was born to an elite family, which earned him the title “princeling” in the language of communist politics. He was a son to Ri Myong Je who was Kim Jong Il’s aide and was an editor at KCNA.

At the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, he learned the English language. Soon, Ri served as North Korea’s ambassador to Sweden, Zimbabwe, and Great Britain. He was considered by American diplomats as remarkably convincing in articulating the North’s viewpoint.

According to an ex-diplomat and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Rex Tillerson should sit down and discuss the North Korean issues directly with Ri. At this juncture, the North Korean foreign minister may provide the best advice for finding a solution because of his close relation to Kim Jong-un, Joel S. Wit said.