In the News – N.Korean Army Chief ‘Refused to Go Quietly’

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In the News – N.Korean Army Chief ‘Refused to Go Quietly’

A gunbattle broke out when the North Korean regime removed army chief Ri Yong-ho from office, leaving 20 to 30 soldiers dead, according to unconfirmed intelligence reports. Some intelligence analysts believe Ri, who has not been seen since his abrupt sacking earlier this week, was injured or killed in the confrontation.

According to government officials here, the gunbattle erupted when Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the People’s Army General Political Bureau, tried to detain Ri in the process of carrying out leader Kim Jong-un’s order to sack him. Guards protecting Ri, who is a vice marshal, apparently opened fire. “We cannot rule out the possibility that Ri was injured or even killed in the firefight,” said one source.

Choe is believed to be the right-hand man of Jang Song-taek, the uncle and patron of the young North Korean leader. He made his career in the Workers Party rather than the army. After being appointed director of the bureau, Choe repeatedly clashed with Ri, who came up as a field commander, prompting Choe to keep Ri under close watch and apparently triggering an internal probe targeting the army chief.

The military had grown tremendously in power under former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s “songun” or military-first doctrine, and military heavyweights like Ri who grew in stature during this period were considered threats to the young North Korean leader.

“The firefight has still not been 100 percent confirmed,” said a government official here. “It may take some time for us to gain a clearer picture of what happened.”

Original Article

In the News – N. Korea’s military chief Ri Yong-ho relieved of all posts

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In the News – N. Korea’s military chief Ri Yong-ho relieved of all posts

SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) — 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.

Ri Yong-ho, the army chief of the General Staff (L), talks to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)

In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

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In the News – Obama to China: Help rein in North Korea

(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama urgedChina on Sunday to use its influence to rein in North Korea instead of “turning a blind eye” to its nuclear defiance, and warned of tighter sanctions if the reclusive state goes ahead with a rocket launch next month.

North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” a stern-faced Obama said after a tour of the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas resonant with echoes of the Cold War.

Such a launch would only lead to further isolation of the impoverished North, which much show its sincerity if on-again-off-again six-party aid-for-disarmament talks are to restart, Obama told a news conference in the South Korean capital.

Seoul and Washington say the launch will be a disguised test of a ballistic missile that violates Pyongyang’s latest international commitments. North Korea says it merely wants to put a satellite into orbit. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

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In the News – North Korea Invites IAEA Inspectors to Return

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho (file photo)

North Korea's Chief Nuclear Negotiator, Ri Yong Ho ( 2011 file photo) Reuter

North Korea considers its February 29 agreement with the United States still in effect, despite Washington’s insistence that, if Pyongyang goes ahead with a so-called space launch next month, that will break the deal. The North says it is inviting United Nations inspectors to return to the country to monitor the recent agreement with the United States.

North Korea is continuing efforts to keep its announced “satellite launch” from jeopardizing its recent agreement to partly freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for American food aid.
Chief nuclear negotiator, Ri Yong Ho, says Pyongyang intends to carry out the deal with the United States. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un’s Inner Circle Filled With Aging Military Advisors

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In the News – North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un’s Inner Circle Filled With Aging Military Advisors

This picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on January 23, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd R) visiting the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School at Pyongyang for the celebration of the lunar New Year. (KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Wherever North Korea’s young new leader goes, they’re there: a group of graying military and political officials who shadow Kim Jong Un as he visits army bases, attends concerts and tours schools.

As Kim Jong Un steps into the role of “supreme commander” less than two months after his father’s death, these officials can be seen in the background. They listen attentively as their leader speaks during “guidance visits” and stand at his side during group photos, smiling and clapping. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Announces It Will Release Prisoners

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In the News – North Korea Announces It Will Release Prisoners

By 
Published: January 10, 2012

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Tuesday that it would release prisoners in its first special amnesty in seven years, a day after soldiers paraded in the capital, Pyongyang, vowing to become “rifles and bombs” to defend the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un. The military rally in Pyongyang on Monday and the special pardon, effective from Feb. 1, came as North Korea escalated a campaign to consolidate support for Mr. Kim.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that the special pardon was part of national celebrations to observe the 70th anniversary in February of the birth of Kim Jong-il, the new leader’s father, who died on Dec. 17, and the 100th anniversary in April of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea Paints a Picture of Stability

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In the News – North Korea Paints a Picture of Stability

kcna/Reuters

 

By EVAN RAMSTAD

SEOUL—North Korean state media in recent days have showed Kim Jong Eun, the country’s presumed new leader, in the company of generals with long personal ties to his late father Kim Jong Il, in what appears to be an attempt to signal a stable transition in the authoritarian regime.

As North Korea goes through its second father-to-son transfer of power, questions have focused on whether the younger Mr. Kim has the all-important support of the upper ranks of the military, which the country’s opaque political structure makes difficult to gauge. But the state media images, along with announcements in the country’s biggest newspaper from Saturday to Monday bestowing the young leader with several new titles, are seen as further moves in the apparent process to give the family succession an air of legitimacy.

In one often-shown picture over the weekend, Mr. Kim stood between Gen. Ri Yong Ho, who went to military school with his father, and another general who put down the only rebellion Kim Jong Il is known to have faced.

Gen. Ri, who stood on Kim Jong Eun’s right in the weekend photo, went to school with his father Kim Jong Il and was the same age. As well, Gen. Ri’s father fought alongside Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il’s father and Kim Jong Eun’s grandfather, against the Japanese in World War II. Gen. Ri’s father later became the Kim family doctor.

Standing on the left in the weekend photo was Kim Yong Chun, who around 1995 or 1996 warned Kim Jong Il of a rebellion in a military unit in North Korea’s remote northeast, and led a harsh crackdown that is believed to have resulted in the deaths of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers. Kim Jong Il kept the general close to him since that crackdown.

Among the top generals, Gen. Ri is widely considered by outside analysts as the figure whose actions and fate will play a major role in determining Kim Jong Eun’s success with the military, and perhaps his ultimate ability to maintain power

On Sunday, Jang Song Thaek, the brother-in-law of Kim Jong Il who was his chief political lieutenant for the last five years, added to the image of unity by appearing in a military uniform rather than a business suit. He has also held a military title since June 2010.

Separately, the new leader dealt for the first time with a high-profile group of South Koreans, the widows of a former president and business executive who came to pay condolences over the death of Kim Jong Il.

The visit by former first lady Lee Hee-ho and Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group, is the only one during the memorial period that has been officially approved by governments in both countries, which technically remain in a state of war. Ms. Lee’s husband, Kim Dae-jung, as South Korea’s president from 1998 to 2003, reached out to Kim Jong Il and, backed by funds and investments from Ms. Hyun’s husband Chung Mong-han, staged the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.

The widows, accompanied by a small group of relatives and associates, arrived Monday afternoon and were scheduled to return to South Korea on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Kim, who is just 27 or 28 years old, is far less experienced in the byzantine organizations of the authoritarian regime than his father was when he took over from Mr. Kim’s grandfather 17 years ago. For that reason, analysts expect North Korean authorities in coming weeks to stage an event to give Mr. Kim more titles.

For now, North Korea’s biggest newspaper, Rodung Shinmun, has started promoting him as “supreme commander” of the military and chief of a major committee in the main political party. TV and photo images on North Korean state media have repeatedly shown Mr. Kim surrounded by loyalists, many with ties to his family stretching back a generation or more.

“Most of the top generals and key party leaders, their family ties with the Kims go back to World War II,” said Bruce Bechtol, a professor at the Center for Security Studies at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.

Also spotted in TV images with the younger Mr. Kim this past week are Gens. O Kuk Ryol and Kim Kyok Sik. Gen. O runs North Korea’s special forces, which account for about 25% of its one million-person military, and was close to Kim Jong Il since childhood, when his mother took care of Mr. Kim and his sister after the death of their mother. Kim Kyok Sik, another family friend and leader of forces on the inter-Korean border, is believed by analysts to have directed the 2010 attacks on the South Korean warship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island, which is controlled by South Korea.

At the same political conference in September 2010 where Kim Jong Il officially revealed Kim Jong Eun to the North Korean public, he promoted Gen. Ri to vice marshal. Just a few weeks later, Gen. Ri took the No. 2 spot behind Kim Jong Il on the National Defense Commission, North Korea’s most powerful organization, following the death of a general who had also served with Kim Il Sung.

This year, Gen. Ri appeared with the two Kims at approximately 60 public occasions, according to a count by an American graduate student, Luke Herman, published at the web site NK News.

The North Korean regime is structured so that the dictator stands at the intersection of three competing forces: the political party, the military and a state security department that monitors loyalty.

Each of the three has some power over the others. For instance, the party must approve any military appointment above the level of brigadier general. And the system discourages individuals from seeking to replace the man in the middle.

“I don’t think anyone in the elite would try to grab power because there is a well-established check-and-balance system,” said Chang Yong-seok, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. “It would be suicidal.”

Original article can be found here.