N. Korea army chief removed from all posts

North Korea's army chief has been removed from all his posts due to illness, state media announced Monday, which analysts said showed new leader Kim Jong-Un tightening his control over the powerful military.

Ri Yong-Ho is regarded as one of the key figures who supported the young, untested leader in the transition following the death in December of his father Kim Jong-Il who ruled the reclusive state for 17 years.

The regime's quick announcement on Ri, 69, was "very unusual", prompting Seoul to keep an eye on the North's next move, said Kim Hyung-Suk, spokesman for the South's unification ministry handling cross-border affairs.

Observers say the outgoing vice marshal may have fallen out of favour with Kim Jong-Un.

Ri became head of the North's 1.2 million-strong armed forces -- one of the world's largest -- in 2009 and had often been seen accompanying Kim Jong-Un on visits to military bases this year.

The North's official KCNA news agency said top officials of the Workers' Party of Korea took the decision Sunday to relieve the vice marshal of his posts due to illness.

He was removed from the political bureau presidium, the party's highest body with a handful of members, and his post as a vice-chairman of the central military commission, it said.

The general was one of seven top party and military cadres who accompanied Kim Jong-Un when he walked alongside the hearse carrying the body of his father Kim Jong-Il during his funeral.

The seven -- including Kim Jong-Un's uncle Jang Song-Thaek -- were considered central figures in bolstering the regime of the new leader, who is in his late 20s.

Ri was also seen accompanying Kim Jong-Un when he paid tribute to his late grandfather Kim Il-Sung on the July 8 anniversary of his death in 1994.

Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said he was sceptical about the reason given for the "hawkish" veteran field commander's departure.

"He might have fallen into disfavour with Kim Jong-Un or lost in a power struggle with other military leaders," he said, adding Pyongyang seldom relieved party or military leaders simply for health reasons.

Paik Hak-Soon of the Sejong Institute said Kim Jong-Un might be seeking to strengthen the party's control over the military which had become too powerful under the "Songun" (army-first) policy of his father.

"Jong-Un will make sure that now the party keeps the overgrown military under check -- an effort his father started in late 2010 before he died," he said.

"Ri is an old fixture from the father's generation. Jong-Un will likely replace him with someone younger and closer to the party ... someone he can control more easily," Paik said.

Cheong Seong-Chang, another Sejong researcher, said Ri must have been ousted after protesting at the party's increasing attempt to control the military.

"The latest dismissal shows that even a figure like Ri, who has enjoyed the deep trust of Kim Jong-Un, can be fired overnight," he said, predicting the party's control over the military would grow.

The North's military has in recent months ratcheted up hostile rhetoric towards South Korea and its President Lee Myung-Bak, partly in a bid to burnish Kim Jong-Un's credentials.

Ri, at a massive anti-Seoul rally in Pyongyang in March, called South Korean leaders "mad dogs" and "psychos" and declared a "sacred war" against Seoul for allegedly insulting the North's leadership.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed North last month also denounced US-South Korean drills near the tense border as a provocation and vowed to bolster its "nuclear deterrent".

It was the latest sign of high tensions after the North's failed rocket launch in April, seen by the United States and its allies as an attempted ballistic missile test.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Thai, Philippine indexes weak after trade data

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most Southeast Asian stock markets rose in line with the rest of Asia on Tuesday but the Thai index pared early gains after weak trade data in April, while the Philippine benchmark ... …

  • Is your home on top of a faultline?
    Is your home on top of a faultline?

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanoly and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recently issued an updated and high-resolution "atlas" of the East Valley Fault and West Valley Fault, two major faultlines that run through sections of Metro Manila. Metro Manila may be due for a 7.2-magnitude earthquake within this lifetime, say experts from the institute, among them PHIVOLCS director Dr. Renato Solidum, Jr. According to records, the last major earthquake caused by the West Valley Fault took place 357 years …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options