North Korea’s top three military officials have been removed from their posts, a senior U.S. official said, a move analysts said on Monday could support efforts by the North’s young leader to jump-start economic development and engage with the world.
Kim Jong Un is preparing for a high-stakes summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, the first such meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president.
The U.S. official, who spoke on Sunday on condition of anonymity, was commenting on a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that all three of the North’s top military officials were believed to have been replaced.
Kim’s motivation remains unclear but analysts said the shake-up allows him and the ruling party to tighten control over the Korean People’s Army (KPA) at a critical time of international engagement and domestic development.
“If Kim Jong Un is set on making peace with the U.S. and South Korea and dealing away at least part of the nuclear program, he will have to put the KPA’s influence in a box and keep it there,” said Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organization.