North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has dismissed his top general and called for an escalation in war preparations in an offensive manner, including ramping up weapons production and conducting more drills, state media reported on Thursday.
With a cigarette in hand, Kim was shown addressing a room filled with uniformed top generals and pointing at maps in images showcased by state media. He discussed major military actions against South Korea during a meeting of the central military commission.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stated that the focus of the meeting, held just days after Kim’s inspection of key arms factories, was the issue of comprehensive war readiness and ensuring perfect military preparedness.
This meeting comes as Seoul and Washington prepare for a significant joint drill later this month, which North Korea perceives as rehearsals for an invasion and has reportedly warned could trigger overwhelming action in response.
During the meeting, Kim dismissed the Chief of the General Staff, Pak Su-ll, replacing him with Vice Marshal Ri Yong Gil. KCNA reported this development without providing further details.
Pak, who was promoted to the post late last year, may have been dismissed due to insufficient competence in the field of military operations, according to Cheong Seong Chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute. Kim Jong-un has demonstrated a tendency to swiftly replace officials when they are deemed lacking in the ability to control and perform their duties, he noted. Ri may have been the most suitable person to replace Pak, given his extensive prior experience in the position, Cheong added.
Mass Production of Weapons
Kim called upon all munitions industrial establishments to accelerate mass production of various weapons and equipment, the report added. He also urged the active conduct of actual war drills to ensure efficient operation of the newly deployed latest weapons and equipment.
Kim reached a significant conclusion on further intensifying the offensive war preparations of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), according to KCNA’s report, referring to North Korea’s military.
The latest KCNA report appears to be North Korea’s response to the upcoming joint military training between Seoul and Washington, an official from Seoul’s unification ministry told reporters. Referring to photos published by North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, depicting Kim pointing to what seemed to be a map of Seoul, the official stated, “I believe he intended to convey a message to the South through these threatening actions.”
The meeting also addressed preparations for a massive parade to commemorate the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s founding on September 9.
Last month, Pyongyang held a major military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, with analysts describing the event as North Korea’s largest and most extensive display of nuclear-capable systems.
North Korea also hosted a significant defense expo concurrent with the parade, during which Kim provided the visiting Russian Defense Minister with a tour of the country’s latest and most advanced weaponry, including ballistic missiles and spy drones.