North Korean officials removed as Kim changes direction

Clay Curtis
June 4, 2018

It is the first time that exchanges over the abduction issue have come to light during high-level preparatory talks between Washington and Pyongyang for a Kim-Trump summit next week.

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.

While excitement is building, the high stakes nature of the event means secrecy surrounds much of the planning.

Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler reports from Singapore.

Close military cooperation between the two countries began when North Korea sent some 530 troops including pilots, tank drivers and missile personnel to Syria during the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973.

A senior U.S. official, who declined to be identified, quoted a report by South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Sunday which said all three of the North's top military officials were believed to have been replaced.

All three appear to have been replaced by younger Kim loyalists, part of an ongoing transformation of the country's political and military establishment since the young leader took power in 2011.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is to join that summit with the meeting likely to declare an end to the Korean War after nearly 70 years, the JoongAng Daily reported yesterday, citing a diplomatic source it did not identify.

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'This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that.

"North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization", Mattis said during public remarks at a meeting with the South Korean and Japanese defense ministers.

Trump met with former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong Chol for about 90 minutes Friday - the highest-level North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years.

That official said U.S. negotiators' efforts to press for definitions of immediate, comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation by North Korea had run into opposition from the White House. "They are loyal to Kim Jong Un and no-one else", said Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA, a non-profit research organisation.

"If they think it enhances their legitimacy, then they certainly don't have a good understanding of the worldwide community, and certainly what the USA is going to think about it", he said.

Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, in May.

Another American official, quoted by Reuters, says preparations for the US-North Korea summit have made only "halting progress", citing differences between US negotiators and the Trump administration.

All the officials who were reportedly promoted were younger than those dismissed, according to Yonhap, including the new general staff chief, Ri Yong Gil, who at 63 is 21 years younger than the outgoing Ri Myong Su.

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