Ri has visited China once and Russia twice. He met China’s defence minister in 2008 as the air force commander and accompanied Kim Jong Il on a visit to a Russian fighter jet factory in 2011, according to state media
Kim Jong Sik is a prominent rocket scientist who rose after playing a role in North Korea’s first successful launch of a rocket in 2012.
He started his career as a civilian aeronautics technician, but now wears the uniform of a military general at the Munitions Industry Department, according to experts and the South Korean government.
Many other details, including his age, are not known.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin, which has long called for the United States and North Korea to negotiate, said it was ready to act as a mediator if the two sides were willing for it to play such a role.
“Russia’s readiness to clear the way for de-escalation is obvious,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Asked to comment on the offer, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Justin Higgins, said the United States “has the ability to communicate with North Korea through a variety of diplomatic channels”, and added:
“We want the North Korean regime to understand that there is a different path that it can choose, however it is up to North Korea to change course and return to credible negotiations.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who made a similar offer on Monday, told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a phone call on Tuesday that “Washington’s aggressive rhetoric” and beefing up of its military presence in the region had heightened tension and was unacceptable, his ministry said.
Lavrov underscored the need for “the fastest move to the negotiating process from the language of sanctions”, it said.
Another U.S. State Department spokesman, Michael Cavey, said Washington remained open to talks, but the onus was on North Korea “to take sincere and meaningful actions towards denuclearisation and refrain from further provocations.”
South Korea’s Unification Ministry forecast on Tuesday that North Korea would look to open negotiations with the United States next year while continuing to seek recognition as a de facto nuclear power
The United States has stressed the need for all countries, especially Russia, and China – North Korea’s main trading partner – to fully implement sanctions, including by cutting off oil supplies.
According to Chinese customs data, China exported no oil products to North Korea in November, apparently going above and beyond U.N. sanctions imposed earlier in the year.
China also imported no North Korean iron ore, coal or lead in November, the second full month of those trade sanctions, the data showed.
China has not disclosed its crude exports to North Korea for several years, but industry sources say it still supplies about 520,000 tonnes, or 3.8 million barrels, a year to the country via an ageing pipeline.
North Korea also sources some of its oil from Russia.
Trade between North Korea and China has slowed through the year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February.
Chinese exports of corn to North Korea in November also slumped, down 82 percent from a year earlier to 100 tonnes, the lowest since January. Exports of rice plunged 64 percent to 672 tonnes, the lowest since March.
(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Alistair Bell and James Dalgleish)