Reports: Wiretap led to Ri’s ouster in N. Korea; firefight killed 20

Special to

By Lee Jong-Heon,

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.

Choe Ryong-Hae, second from right, director of the KPA General Political Department is briefed about ongoing construction of the Pyongyang Folk Park.

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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