One of North Korea's most powerful figures, army chief Ri Yong-ho, has suddenly been relieved of his duties with immediate effect. Analysts believe his sudden fall from power denotes leader Kim Jong-Un's intent to strengthen his position over the army.
According to the Telegraph North Korea's official news agency KCNA issued a statement saying “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." However, the FT reported Ri exhibited no outward signs of ill-health and he has accompanied Kim Jong-Un on recent tours of North Korea military facilities.
In addition to holding the position of army chief since 2009, Ri was also vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission and held key posts in the Workers' Party.
Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told the Telegraph “In these sort of dictatorships, purges are used as a policy instrument and designed to send the chilling message that the regime is willing to take action. And that is even more chilling when the person is one of the most senior members of the inner circle.”
Pinkston predicted that whoever is appointed to replace Ri will "be grateful and beholden to Kim Jong-Un" thus allowing the young leader to strengthen his hold over the military.