North Korea Replaces Top Military Officials Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

A U.S. official told Reuters that three of the most senior military officials in North Korea have been replaced.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency was the first that reported the move, identifying the three officials as the chief of the Korean People’s Army’s (KPA), Ri Myong Su; the director of the KPA’s General Political Bureau, Kim Jong Gak; and defense chief Pak Yong Sik.

However, the source who spoke to Reuters did not confirm the men’s identities.

The First Vice Minister of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces No Kwang Chol reportedly replaced Pak Yong Sik, and Ri Myong Su’s position was filled by his deputy Ri Yong Gil. The new officials are younger than their predecessors, according to Yonhap.

The report comes after President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the denuclearization summit set to take place between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was back on track after the President canceled the meeting last month.

The White House’s reason for canceling the summit was Pyongyang’s refusal to agree to the “unilateral” surrender of its nuclear arsenal. But the President later gave a statement saying that the summit was still on after meeting with North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office.

Reuters reported that U.S. officials feel that there was disagreement within the North Korean military as to how Kim should work with Washington and Seoul.

Analysts say that the shake-up allows Kim 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 U.S. 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 Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organization.

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