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N. Korea army chief 'removed from posts due to illness'

July 16, 2012

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) exchanges smiles with the chief of general staff of the Korean People's Army Ri Yong-ho during a military parade to mark the birth anniversary of the North's late leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang on February 16, 2012 . — Photo Reuters

SEOUL: North Korea's army chief Ri Yong-Ho has been removed from all his posts due to illness, the communist state's official news agency said Monday.

A meeting of the ruling party's decision-making body on Sunday decided to “relieve Ri Yong-Ho of all his posts... for his illness”, said the agency.

The posts included “member of the presidium of the political bureau, member of the political bureau of the (central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea) and vice-chairman of the central military commission of the (Workers' Party of Korea),” said the agency.

The Workers' Party of Korea is the North's ruling party.

Ri, a central figure in the regime who became army head in 2009, was recently seen accompanying the North's new leader Kim Jong-Un as he paid tribute to his late grandfather Kim Il-Sung on the anniversary of his death in 1994.

Kim Jong-Un took power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December.

Some analysts believe the young dictator could take his country in a new direction but others point to his failed rocket launch in April as evidence that he is likely to continue the country's international isolation.

The North has been developing nuclear weapons for decades.

Pyongyang's official position has been that it needs atomic weapons for self-defence against a US nuclear threat, but it is willing in principle to scrap its arsenal under a negotiated international deal.