Special to WorldTribune.com
SEOUL — Ri Yong-Ho, the most ardent supporter of late North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il’s “military-first” policy, was purged because he had complained about youthful new ruler Kim Jong-Un’s push for policy changes, sources and officials in Seoul say.
But Ri’s dismissal could encourage his supporters and hardline Army officers to engage in a power struggle that could weaken the new leader’s grip on the military, one source said, noting the possibility of a military coup.
Ri was sacked from all posts including chief of the General Staff of the People’s Army, a post he was awarded in 2009 by Kim Jong-Il.
Ri was also dismissed as a member of the Presidium of the Party’s Politburo and a vice chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission.
The actions against the 70-year-old military strongman came as a surprise to North Korea watchers in Seoul because Ri was considered one of Kim Jong-Un’s closest aides both before and after his rise to power.
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