North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has fired the second highest-ranking military official, reports have said. Pak Jong Chon, who had risen through the ranks rapidly since 2015, was the vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Military Commission. The panel is the ultimate decision making body in military matters and is above the ministry of defense.
No Reasons Given
Media reports said no reason has been given for the abrupt change and that Pak was replaced by Ri Yong Gil. North Korea's official news agency KCNA said the changes took place last week. Ri, a senior military commander, had held positions like chief of the army's general staff and defence minister.
Pak was promoted to the politburo of the party in 2020 and was awarded the title of Marshall, which is the highest military rank under Kim.
Reuters noted that the high-level replacement happened at a time when the communist autocrat is mulling the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal. International reports said on Sunday that Kim called for an exponential increase in nuclear weapons arsenal. Kim said this was required as South Korea emerged as an undoubted enemy to the state and since Soul's ally United States is ramping up aid to the enemy.
South Korea Warning
Meanwhile, responding to Kim's aggressive statement, South Korean defence ministry warned that any attempt by North Korea to use nuclear weapons would lead to the "end" of its regime.
"We gravely warn that should North Korea make an attempt at using nuclear arms, it would lead to the end of the Kim Jong-un regime," the ministry said in a text message sent to reporters.
Capping a year in which his regime tested a record number of ballistic missiles, Kim said in his New Year message that Pyonyang is intent on producing tactical nuclear weapons while developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile. These measures would give the regime a "quick counterstrike capability," he said, according to the KCNA.