By Soo-hyang Choi
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol picked close adviser Park Jin to be foreign minister among a slew of cabinet nominations on Wednesday, as he readies to face challenges from North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear activities.
Neighbouring Pyongyang looks set to resume testing nuclear weapons for the first time since 2017, after last month’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The eight minsterial nominations by Yoon, who will take office on May 10, cover education, unification, justice, and environment.
Park, 65, is expected to use his extensive foreign policy experience to help normalize diplomatic efforts that “remain deadlocked,” Yoon told a news conference.
“He has the best expertise and experience in the foreign affairs and security fields.”
The four-term lawmaker recently led a team of Yoon’s advisers who visited the United States for talks on ways to frame a response to threats from the North as it steps up weapons tests.
Park missed the nomination event, however, after having tested positive for COVID-19 on his return from the U.S.
In a statement, Park cited North Korea’s provocations, U.S.-China rivalry and the global supply chain crisis among “a host of challenges” for the Yoon administration.
“I feel heavy responsibility to be nominated as foreign minister at a time when the geopolitical situation is changing rapidly,” he added in the statement issued to reporters.
Yoon nominated as his unification minister Kwon Young-se, 63, a former chairman of the parliament intelligence panel, who will also handle relations between the neighbours.
Kwon, a prosecutor-turned-politician and four-term lawmaker, was ambassador to China from 2013 to 2015.
Cabinet nominees besides the prime minister are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings but do not require approval.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Tom Hogue and Clarence Fernandez)