N. Korea's army chief Ri Yong-ho relieved of all posts
North Korea said Monday that its military chief Ri Yong-ho, known as one of the closest confidants of leader Kim Jong-un, has been removed from all his posts because of his "illness."
"A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party decided to relieve Ri Yong-ho of all his posts for his illness," the North's Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch from Pyongyang.
The media said Lee was dismissed in the party's Sunday meeting as a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the party and a vice-chairman of the party's Central Military Commission.
But the KCNA did not elaborate on whether Ri also lost his position as the army's chief of the General Staff or whether a successor has been selected for the outgoing official.
The 70-year-old Ri, who rose to the ranking positions in the Kim Jong-un regime, was previously known as a key figure who helped Kim seize control of the military following the death of his father and former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last December.
Ri is believed to have been one of the most influential military figures in the communist country, having risen from obscurity as Kim Jong-un started to be groomed to become the leader around 2009.
He became the North Korean army's vice marshal and the vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission in 2010, one year after he took the position of the army's chief of General Staff.
He was one of eight top officials, including Kim and Kim's uncle Jang Song-thaek, who escorted the funeral coach of Kim Jong-il last December.
Ri has often appeared next to the new leader during the young leader's military inspection visits and other official occasions.
While the dismissal heralds a major change in the North's military power structure, some analysts pointed out the removal could be politically motivated rather than a result of Ri's illness.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that the army chief of the General Staff Ri Yong-ho was dismissed on account of Kim Jong-un's unsatisfactory military grip or as a result of a power struggle in North Korea," said Chang Yong-suk, an analyst at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. (Yonhap)