Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
World Media | By Cesar Oliver

North Korea replaces top three military officials

North Korea replaces top three military officials

Singapore will foot North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's astronomical hotel bill when he stays there for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12.

The country's top three military officials have been replaced with younger, more "moderate" figures who have more "flexibility in thinking" than their predecessors, according to an unnamed intelligence source quoted in the South Korean media.

But, if confirmed, the moves raise two contrasting scenarios: part of an ongoing reorganization in military leadership by Kim, or possibly a far-reaching intervention to bring in younger military overseers to replace older ranks possibly at odds with his outreach to the United States and its ally South Korea.

No Kwang-chol, the head of the North Korean Workers' Party's second economic committee, was chosen to replace Pak Yong-sik, who had served as defense chief since May 2015.

Trump, Kim Jong Chol, and a letter from Kim Jong-un.

There has been no confirmation of the venue for the summit to discuss ending the North's nuclear weapons program in return for diplomatic and economic incentives, although several Singapore hotels have figured as candidates.

Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and South Korea's Defence Minister Song Young-moo attend a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore June 3, 2018.

The exact scope of the discussions planned for the Kim-Trump Singapore summit remains unclear.

David Maxwell, associate director for the Centre for Security Studies at Georgetown University, told the NYT that given the upcoming summit with Mr Trump, a possible visit from the Syrian leader was puzzling.

This combined file photo shows Sung Kim (L), USA ambassador to the Philippines, and North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui.

USA officials believe there was some dissension in the military about Kim's approaches to South Korea and the US. North Korea's leadership is believed to regard nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival.

Madden said any similar attempt to wrest power during the North Korean leader's absence was unlikely, pointing to Kim's previous trips to Beijing and Dalian in China, which went off without a hitch.

"North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization", Mattis said.

'The nuclear weapons are a side issue, ' he said.

Should real progress be made, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's plan involves the development of three economic belts that would link his country's industrial heartland with the North and then with China and Russian Federation.

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