North Korea Army Chief Unexpectedly Removed Because Of ‘Illness’
THE KOREA TIMES (South Korea), THE KOREA HERALD (South Korea), NEW YORK TIMES
SEOUL - North Korea has relieved its army chief Ri Yong Ho of all government posts because of an "illness," prompting speculation of a possible power struggle within the secretive regime, South Korea's daily newspaper The Korea Herald reports.
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency startled Pyongyang watchers with the announcement that Ri Yong Ho, until now widely seen as one of Kim Jong-un"s most trusted mentors, had been removed from all posts because of "illness," The New York Times reports from Seoul, adding that North Korea had also cited "health issues' when it fired a police chief and a vice prime minister last year.
Some analysts, saying Ri appeared relatively healthy in recent photographs, suggested the move could be the result of a power struggle within the elite, with speculation focusing on a rising power player named Choe Ryong-hae. "It is possible that Choe tried to put the military under his control and Ri resisted, and that the latter was removed from his post as a result," Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute told by South Korean daily The Korea Times.