PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) -- North Korean military chief Ri Yong Ho was removed from all his official posts on Sunday due to an unspecified illness, state-run media reported on Monday, without giving other details. The announcement took many analysts by surprise.
Ri, 69, was appointed chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in 2009 and has since been one of the most senior officials in North Korea. He frequently accompanied the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and previously leader Kim Jong-il until he died in December 2011.
A brief statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said it had been decided to relieve Ri of his official posts on during a meeting Sunday of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea. Senior party officials were present at the meeting, which apparently dealt with organizational issues, but it was not clear if Kim Jong-un was also present.
"It decided to relieve Ri Yong Ho of all his posts including member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau, member of the Political Bureau of the C.C., WPK and vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK for his illness," KCNA said in the brief statement, providing no details about the illness.
Ri's last known public appearance was on July 8 when he attended a remembrance concert commemorating the 18th death anniversary of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from December 1972 until July 1994 and was later named Eternal President of the Republic. Kim was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il, who in turn was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.
Ri appeared to be healthy in recent public appearances, raising questions among analysts who believe Kim Jong-un may be purging the ruling elite as he attempts to put his own mark on the impoverished nation he inherited when his father died. Illness and accidents have previously been used as a pretext to get rid of high-ranking officials in North Korea. Others have simply vanished unannounced.
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