Countdown begins: A week ahead of summit, Kim replaces top 3 military personnel
A week ahead of the historic summit with US President Donald Trump, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un replaced his top three military officials, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said. The move is being seen as a quest for economic development and engaging with the international community.
The path to the meeting saw a roller-coaster ride with Trump cancelling it on May 24 citing North Korea's "tremendous anger and open hostility". Subsequently, all parties having stake in peace in the Korean Peninsula chipped in to reinstate the meeting - the first of its kind between a North Korean leader and an American president.
Yonhap, citing an unidentified intelligence source, said Pak Yong-sik was replaced by No Kwang-chol as the defence chief while Ri Myong-su was replaced by Ri Yong-gil as the army's chief of general staff.
Besides, Army Gen. Kim Su-gil replaced Kim Jong-gak as the director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army.
Though Kim's motivation for making these changes was unclear, analysts said the move was made keeping in view a changing atmosphere in North Korea - politically and otherwise. They were of the opinion that Kim got rid of personnel who are more hawkish and could find the pro-change stance objectionable and that he needed more loyal people to carry out the mission of international engagement and domestic development.
In case a roadmap to denuclearisation emerges at the June 12 summit in Singapore, Kim could find it challenging to implement it if there are hawks influencing his state's decision-making, said Cheong Seong-chang, an expert at South Korea's Sejong Institute, the Canadian Brodcasting Corporation reported.