North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has replaced the chief of the renegade country’s Strategic Forces, in charge of nuclear weapons and missiles.
Gen. Kim Rak-gyom was replaced by Lt. Gen. Kim Jong-gil.
It is unclear why the reshuffle has taken place at a time when the North’s missile and nuclear weapons development appears to be progressing by leaps and bounds despite international sanctions.
Kim Jong-gil was labeled as head of the Strategic Forces on state TV in coverage of a massive parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Workers Party last week.
The North Korean leader has now replaced more than 90 percent of all commanders of the Army corps as part of efforts to bring the overly powerful and unruly military to heel.
He has also founded a military academy named for his father, Kim Jong-il.
Kim Rak-gyom, the previous Strategic Forces chief,
had accompanied the leader on his inspection tours of key military and missile sites since 2012,
the year after Kim Jong-un took power. Experts speculate that Kim Rak-gyom was fired in late May this year.
In a meeting of the Central Military Commission at the time, Kim Jong-un reiterated the importance of increasing “nuclear deterrence” and revamping the military structure to build up defense capabilities.
Little is known about the newcomer.
A government official here said, “We know nothing about Kim Jong-gil.”
A researcher at a government-funded think tank here said the reshuffles seem part of an attempt to bring the military under Workers Party control.
Kim Jong-un’s father Kim Jong-il instituted a disastrous “military-first” doctrine that allowed the military to grow into a monstrous state-within-the-state, and Kim Jong-un has been battling ever since he took office to break its power.