According to reports, the second-highest military official in North Korea has been fired. Ri Yong-gil has succeeded Pak Jong-chon, the second-most powerful leader after Kim Jong-un. Pak, who serves as secretary of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and vice-chairman of the organization’s Central Military Commission, was replaced at the Central Committee’s annual meeting last week.
No reason for the change was given. According to Reuters, North Korea does, however, frequently reshuffle its leadership, and the year-end party is frequently utilized for important policy decisions. The change coincides with Kim Jong Un’s recent announcement that North Korea will build new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a sizable nuclear arsenal to compete with the United States and South Korea.
Ri, who will take over for Pak, is also a senior military figure who has served in crucial capacities, including chief of the army’s general staff and defense minister. The current rise in tension between North Korea and South Korea over Pyongyang’s intrusion of drones into Seoul territory, according to Oh Gyeong-sup, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, could be a reason.
Three drones were reportedly sent across the border by South Korea in response to the violation. But the North made no comment, which, in Oh’s opinion, might have meant that the drones were not noticed. Theoretically, according to Oh, “Pak might have taken responsibility for the failure of security operations.”
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