- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Top North Korea general’s ouster murky
Question of the Day
Perhaps only in North Korea would the first question about the abrupt departure of a nation’s senior-most military commander be: Who fired him?
But analysts say the only thing sure about the sudden departure of five-star Gen. Ri Yung Ho is that the official reason given for it, ill-health, looks like a transparent lie.
“We just don’t know why this happened,” said Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corp., a think tank with historic ties to the U.S. military.
The uncertainty underlines how poorly outsiders understand the secretive nuclear-armed state, ruled for more than half a century by three generations of the same family through the Leninist machinery of the Korean Workers’ Party and the country’s million-strong military.
Just months after walking alongside Mr. Kim at his father’s funeral — and despite being next to him at about half of Mr. Kim’s public appearances since — Gen. Ri was relieved of all his military and civilian posts at a meeting of the Communist Party leadership over the weekend, state media said in a brief release Monday.
In another brief statement Tuesday, the official Korean Central News Agency named Gen. Ri’s successor as Gen. Hyon Yong Chol.
“This shows the transition is not settled yet,” said Victor Cha, a former White House National Security Council official and now a Korea scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This isn’t over by a long way,” added Mr. Cha, noting that the announcement said nothing about a replacement for the general in any of his jobs.
Mr. Bennett pointed out that Gen. Ri was actually the third member of the leadership to have been removed since Mr. Kim succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, in January. The departures of the minister of state security, Gen. U Tong Chuk, and the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Gen. Kim Yong Chun, had never been announced, he said.
“The papers just started referring to somebody else as the [new] minister,” he said, referring to both ministries.
“They wanted people to know that Ri was gone,” he said.
The firing means “either Kim Jong Un has kicked off the training wheels by ditching his mentor or marks the consolidation of some other power behind the throne,” said Scott Synder of the Council on Foreign Relations.
“Neither possibility will be immediately reassuring to external observers.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
TWT Video Picks
By Scott Pinsker
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll
- D.C. seeks stay in order striking down ban on handguns in public
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- Computer glitch caused odd Saturday release of D.C. guns ruling
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq