N. Korean media: Army chief relieved of all posts
Kim Jong Un’s top military official - a key mentor to North Korea’s young new leader who had served under his father - has been removed from all posts because of illness, state media said Monday in a surprise announcement that shakes the core of the authoritarian country’s power structure.
Ri Yong Ho had looked healthy in recent appearances, and his departure fed speculation among analysts that Kim purged him in an effort to put his own mark on the nation he inherited seven months ago when his father Kim Jong Il died. At the same time, there was no sign of discord at Ri’s last public appearance at a high-level event barely a week ago.
The decision to dismiss the 69-year-old from top military and political posts was made at a Workers’ Party meeting Sunday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. It was not immediately clear who would take Ri’s place, and the dispatch did not elaborate on his condition or future.
Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea analyst at the International Crisis Group, was skeptical of the illness claim, in part because of Ri’s recent apparent health. He also said Ri won his major promotions at a September 2010 party conference but received none in April, which stirred speculation about the general’s future.
"There’s a very high probability that it wasn’t health issues, but that he was purged," sending a strong signal to anyone seeking to challenge Kim Jong Un - even if Ri never directly defied the new leader, Pinkston said.
Photo Credit: (Korean Central News Agency/AP)