Web Desk (June 04, 2018): Three of North Korea’s top military officials have been replaced, a South Korean news agency reported Monday, marking an apparent shake-up in leader Kim Jong Un’s inner circle before next week’s planned summit with President Donald Trump.
The report by the Yonhap news agency, citing an intelligence source, could not be independently verified. But, if confirmed, the move could suggest a direct intervention by Kim to remove military brass possibly at odds with his outreach to the United States and its ally, South Korea.The officials who reportedly were dropped are from some of the highest reaches of the North’s military structure, including Ri Myong Su, the chief of general staff for the Korean People’s Army. Ri was thought to be a close confidant to Kim’s father, the late leader Kim Jong Il.
The others dismissed, according to Yonhap, were defense chief Pak Yong Sik and Kim Jong Gak, director of the political bureau of the North Korean army. It was unclear when the changes were carried out, but plans to replace Kim Jong Gak were reported in North Korean media last month, Yonhap said.The military moves also may be viewed as another step by Kim to underscore his willingness to make bold internal changes ahead of the scheduled June 12 summit with Trump in Singapore. But the North has given no clear hints about how far it could go toward meeting U.S. demands to dismantle its nuclear program.