North Korea shakes up top military brass ahead of Trump summit

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the construction site of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area as Kim Su-gil (3rd L), newly appointed director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army, looks on, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang – REUTERS


Seoul/Washington (Reuters): North Korea’s top three military officials have been removed from their posts, a senior US official said, a move analysts said yesterday could support efforts by the North’s young leader to jump-start economic development and engage with the world.

Kim Jong Un is preparing for a high-stakes summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore on 12 June, the first such meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president.

The US official, who spoke on Sunday on condition of anonymity, was commenting on a report by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that all three of the North’s top military officials were believed to have been replaced.

Kim’s motivation remains unclear, but analysts said the shake-up allows him and the ruling party to tighten control over the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at a critical time of international engagement and domestic development.

“If Kim Jong Un is set on making peace with the US and South Korea and dealing away at least part of the nuclear program, he will have to put the KPA’s influence in a box and keep it there,” said non-profit research and analysis organisation CAN’s International Affairs Group Director Ken Gause. “This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that. They are loyal to Kim Jong Un and no one else.”

Trump revived the Singapore summit on Friday (1 June) after cancelling it a week earlier.

The United States is seeking a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and US officials believe there was some dissension in the military about Kim’s approaches to South Korea and the United States.