While pressed for time, it would be inconsistent of me to ignore here the recent upheavals in the government of North Korea. I have undertaken to bring to readers' attentions the views of a number of top analysts in the field.
There are mixed opinions as to the reasoning behind the replacement of Ri Yong Ho in the military establishment behind North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Until a few days ago Ri Youn Ho, 69, held a position in North Korea second only to Kim himself. He was a key mentor to Kim Jong-Un, as Kim grew and was being prepared to take the reins of the belligerent North Korea. Ri is often seen in photographs of Kim the Younger and was with the young Korean through the transition following the death of Kim Jong-Il. North Korea is a strongly military nation, maintaining a disciplined standing army of 28,000 men (some authorities claim a much higher figure). The army plays a major role in the maintenance of missiles and nuclear technology, and in the dissemination of anti-South Korea, anti-American rhetoric.
Analyst Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group, says that the sudden ouster may be intended as a warning to those who would challenge the young Kim. The displaced Ri Youn Ho was lauded in years past, but lately he has been overlooked, generating speculation as to his future.
Bruce Klingner, at the Heritage Foundation, tends to agree. He says the shake-up is cause for concern, whether the Korean leader is merely emplacing younger men, or responding to a challenge to his authority.
Koh Yu-hwan, of Dongguk University in Seoul, says the replacement of Ri Youn Ho which will effectively place rising star Choe Ryong-hae as the top political officer and supervisor of the army. This may indicate that Ho lost a significant power struggle. Choe has had several promotions in recent years, and was one of three new vice marshals announced earlier this year. Some sources refer to Choe as the puppet master behind Kim Jong-Un.