North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has taken decisive measures in response to increasing tensions with its enemies. In a recent meeting of Pyongyang’s Central Military Commission, Kim dismissed Chief of the General Staff Pak Su-il and ordered heightened preparations for war, including an increase in weapons production. The firing of Pak comes after only seven months on the job, with no explanation given by state-run media outlet KCNA.
Replacing Pak is General Ri Yong-gil, formerly North Korea’s defense minister. Interestingly, Ri had earlier been replaced in 2016 and was rumored to have been executed. However, he returned to the military as second-in-command in January and now assumes the role of Chief of the General Staff.
North Korea frequently reshuffles personnel in top military positions, and this change is seen as part of Kim’s strategy to enhance the country’s readiness for potential conflict. Kim has urged his top officers to conduct drills with the country’s latest weaponry to ensure preparedness for war. Ri, who had participated in meetings with Russian defense officials during Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s visit to Pyongyang last month, is expected to play a key role in strengthening cooperation between North Korea and Russia’s defense departments.
North Korea’s acceleration of strategic weapons testing, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, is a response to what its Foreign Ministry labels as the “hegemonic actions of the United States and its satellites.” The country sees the upcoming joint military exercises between Washington and South Korea as a further threat to its security. The recent docking of the USS Kentucky in Busan, the first port call by a nuclear-armed US submarine since the 1980s, has also heightened tensions.
The North Korean leader’s sibling, Kim Yo-jong, who serves as the country’s foreign policy chief, has warned of the increasing possibility of armed conflict and even a nuclear war. This statement reflects the escalating tensions and the seriousness with which North Korea perceives the situation.
Kim’s latest actions demonstrate his determination to strengthen North Korea’s military capabilities and readiness in response to perceived threats. While the firing of Pak and the appointment of Ri may seem like routine personnel changes, they signify Kim’s commitment to ensuring the country’s preparedness for any potential conflict. The international community will closely monitor the developments and continue diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions in the region.