North Korean Kim Jong Un has sacked the country’s second most powerful military official, according to state media.
Shortly after the North Korean leader himself, Pak Jong Chon, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party and secretary of the party’s Central Committee, was replaced by Ri Yong Gil.
No reason was given for the change, with Pyongyang regularly reorganizing its leadership.
The announcement was made at the committee’s annual meeting last week, which is often used to announce major policy decisions and staff reshuffles.
State television showed Mr Pak sitting in the front row of the podium with his head bowed during the meeting. Later, his seat was vacant.
The official KCNA news agency also released photos of Mr. Kim’s New Year’s visit to the Kumsusan Sun Palace, where Mr. Pak was also absent.
This differed from October when Mr. Pak accompanied Mr. Kim on a trip to the palace, which houses the bodies of his grandfather and father, to mark a holiday anniversary.
The replacement came as Mr Kim called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal to counter the United States and South Korea.
Mr. Pak quickly rose through the military ranks, going from a one-star artillery commander to a four-star general in five years.
At the end of 2020, he was promoted to political office and granted the title of field marshal, the highest military rank under Mr. Kim. Taking credit for helping to advance the country’s short-range missile technology, he became a leading voice last November against joint South Korea-US military exercises.
Similar to other senior military officials, Mr. Pak was briefly demoted in mid-2021, after Mr. Kim reprimanded some officials for their handling of North Koreathe anti-coronavirus policy of. He was promoted again months later.
Oh Gyeong-sup, a member of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said a recent spike in inter-Korean tension over the intrusion of North Korean drones into the South may have played a role in the dismissal of Mr. Pak.
Mr Oh said three drones believed to have been sent from South Korea in response to the intrusion were not detected by North Korea, after the country failed to respond.
“Pak could have taken responsibility for the failure of security operations,” Mr Oh said.
Pak’s dismissal comes as Kim mostly praised the military’s progress in weapons development during the committee meeting, unlike in other areas where he pointed out flaws and called for improvements. improvements.