Kim Jong-un fires top North Korean general and steps up 'war preparations'

Dismissal of Pak Su-il comes at meeting in which leader was pictured poring over maps of South Korea

Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting in Pyongyang. AFP
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has dismissed the leader of the national military and called for war preparations to be stepped up, state media reported on Thursday.

Mr Kim dismissed chief of the general staff Pak Su-il at a meeting of senior generals from his ruling Worker's Party, replacing him with Vice Marshal Ri Yong-gil, Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency reported.

Mr Pak, who was promoted to the post late last year, may have been dismissed "because he did not demonstrate sufficient competence in the field of military operations", Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute told AFP.

"Kim Jong-un has shown a tendency to quickly replace officials when they are judged to be lacking in the ability to control and perform their duties," he said.

Mr Ri was the "most suitable" replacement because he has previously held the position for a long time, Mr Cheong added.

State media, which published photos of Mr Kim at Thursday meeting pointing to maps of South Korea, said the gathering was held to discuss "the issue of making full war preparations" and ensuring "perfect military readiness for a war".

The North Korean leader called for war readiness on an "offensive" scale amid growing co-operation between the US and its ally South Korea, which has condemned a number of ballistic missile launches from North Korea in recent months.

Mr Kim signed an order to implement unspecified “important military measures," the report added, and called for the military to step up mass production of weapons and stage "actual war drills".

North Korea said it viewed major military drills between Washington and Seoul as preparation for an invasion and has warned of an "overwhelming" response.

It has launched several long-range missiles towards South Korea and Japan, prompting the US to urge its East Asian allies to co-operate more closely and beware of growing Chinese and North Korean threats.

The latest report appeared to be North Korea's "own response to the upcoming joint military training between Seoul and Washington", an official from Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

"I think he wanted to send a message to the South with a threatening action," the source added, referring to the photo of Mr Kim with a map of Seoul.

Last month, Mr Kim gave Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu a tour of an arms exhibition featuring missiles banned under UN Security Council resolutions.

It was the first visit of a Moscow defence chief to North Korea since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Updated: August 10, 2023, 9:20 AM