North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shaken up the country’s military leadership, firing his top general and ordering the army to “gird for a war.” Gen. Pak Su Il was dismissed as Chief of the General Staff and replaced by Vice Marshal Ri Yong Gil at a meeting of the Central Military Commission on Wednesday, according to state-run media outlets.
This is not an uncommon move for the North Korean regime, which regularly reshuffles its military structure. However, analysts have noted that Ri’s career trajectory – having only assumed the number two job in the North Korean hierarchy as recently as December 31 – suggests larger implications for military action in the near future.
Given the current geopolitical climate, it can’t be denied that tensions remain high and the likelihood of an upcoming armed confrontation shouldn’t be discounted. In this time of uncertainty, now more than ever we must keep our eyes open for any sign of an imminent strike.
Ri Yong Gil, a prominent member of North Korea’s military elite, has experienced highs and lows in his career. Speculation was rife seven years ago that he had been executed after a reshuffle in personnel.
Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, remarked on the situation.
Cheong Seong-chang, senior analyst at the Sejong Institute private think tank near Seoul, suggested that Kim Jong Un’s military reshuffling could have various motives and wasn’t necessarily intended as punishment. He commented, “It’s wrong to view dismissals as a form of retribution, since the leader frequently promotes, demotes and discharges officers according to their skill levels.”
Amid concerns surrounding a potential war in the Korean Peninsula, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently shuffled military posts from within his regime. This move follows reports that Kim is wary of any forces below him acquiring too much power and potentially rivaling his own.
According to American expert on Korea, Joel W.Easley, Kim’s fear of others threatening his own power could have been sparked by the situation faced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Wagner Group, allegedly challenged Putin after gaining control over financial assets and an army of devoted supporters.
This recent shakeup was mentioned in an official statement from the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The focus of the report was mainly on ensuring that the nation’s army is adequately prepared for a war. Despite not directly addressing South Korea and America, it appeared to infer to their presence as “chief culprits of deteriorated situation” on the peninsula.
North Korea has sent a clear message to the world: it is ramping up preparations for war. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the top agenda item at their latest meeting was “Making full war preparations.” Officials urged for the nation’s army to have an “overwhelming will and thoroughgoing and perfect military readiness for a war.”
In recent months, hostilities have been escalating between North Korea and the United States enven more, with Pyongyang threatening to shoot down US reconnaissance planes and retaliate for the port call of a US nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarine to South Korea – for the first time in four decades.
The situation has been further complicated by North Korea’s advancements in ballistic missile technology. Last month they tested what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, potentially giving them the capability to strike the US mainland. It is clear now more than ever that a full war could be imminent.
At North Korea’s “Victory Day” parade last month, Kim Jong-Un showed off a slew of weapons – the latest sign that four years since the end of the Korean War, no formal peace treaty has been signed.
At a meeting in Pyongyang on Wednesday, the North Korean leader issued orders for military drills, as well as spoke to the need “capacity-building” in terms of Serial production of ammunition.
Following these provocations, South Korea responded with a nationwide civil defense drill set for August 23rd. All 51 million residents will practice evacuating to shelters or underground safe spaces during the 20-minute exercise.
With tensions continuing to rise between the two countries, it remains to be seen if these weapons will be used for defensive purposes or to incite further conflict.