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10 Aug, 2023 17:26

Kim Jong-un sacks his top general

The North Korean leader has ordered military leaders to prepare for war and ramp up weapons production
Kim Jong-un sacks his top general

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has dismissed his top military leader and ordered heightened preparations for war, including increased production of weapons.

Chief of the General Staff Pak Su-il has been fired after about seven months on the job, state-run media outlet KCNA reported on Thursday. He has been replaced by General Ri Yong-gil, formerly North Korea’s defense minister.

Ri previously served a stint as military chief of staff. Ironically, when he was replaced in 2016 and didn’t appear at public events for a few months, South Korean reports suggested that he had been executed. He replaced Pak Jong-chon as second-in-command of the country’s military in January.

KCNA offered no explanation for the latest change in military leadership. North Korea’s government often reshuffles personnel in top positions.

Kim announced the changes at a meeting of Pyongyang’s Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party to discuss plans to counter North Korea’s enemies. He called for top officers to carry out drills with the country’s latest weaponry to ensure that troops are ready for war.

Ri, who had been vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, was among the high-ranking North Korean officers who participated in meetings with their Russian counterparts during last month’s visit to Pyongyang by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. The Russian military leader said the talks would help “strengthen cooperation between our defense departments.”

Pyongyang has accelerated testing of its strategic weaponry, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, amid what the North Korean Foreign Ministry has called “hegemonic actions of the United States and its satellites.”

Washington and South Korea plan to hold another round of large-scale joint military exercises later this month. Last month, the USS Kentucky docked in Busan, marking the first port call on the Korean Peninsula by a nuclear-armed US submarine since the 1980s.

Kim’s sister, North Korean foreign policy chief Kim Yo-jong, warned in July that Washington had escalated tensions to the point that “the possibility of an actual armed conflict and even the outbreak of nuclear war is debated.”