A South Korean news agency is reporting that three of North Korea’s top military officials have been replaced, just a few short weeks ahead of the June 12 Peace Summit between the US and that nation.

The report by the Yonhap news agency, citing an intelligence source, could not be independently verified. But, if confirmed, the move could suggest a direct intervention by Kim to remove military brass possibly at odds with his outreach to the United States and its ally, South Korea.

The officials who reportedly were dropped are from some of the highest reaches of the North’s military structure, including Ri Myong Su, the chief of general staff for the Korean People’s Army. Ri was thought to be a close confidant to Kim’s father, the late leader Kim Jong Il.

The others dismissed, according to Yonhap, were defense chief Pak Yong Sik and Kim Jong Gak, director of the political bureau of the North Korean army. It was unclear when the changes were carried out, but plans to replace Kim Jong Gak were reported in North Korean media last month, Yonhap said.

Experts indicate that the change may indicate Kim is sealing support for his transition to a more economically-liberated and less weapon-reliant government model.

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.

“This reshuffle has brought to the fore the officers who can do just that. They are loyal to Kim Jong Un and no one else.”

It appears that Kim is keen on following through on his Chinese/Vietnamese-styled infusion of capitalism into the North Korean controlled economy. Furthermore, it may signal that North Korea, a reliable Chinese satellite since 1950, may be leaving orbit.

Interestingly, there is another embattled national leader who may soon be consulting Kim about how to pursue better life-options rather than missiles, brutality, and being a Russian satellite.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has expressed interest in traveling to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un, North Korean media reported Sunday, adding another layer of possible intrigue to the planning for next week’s summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader.

The report by the state-run news agency KCNA gave no details on the timing of a possible trip by Assad, who has rarely left Syria since the country’s conflict erupted more than seven years ago. There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials.

But even the suggestion of outreach from Assad to North Korea is certain to ripple through White House efforts to define an agenda for the planned June 12 summit in Singapore. It also reflects Kim’s push to shed his reclusive image and seek wider contacts, including apparent efforts underway to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Imagine if President Trump resolves the long-term security and military challenges associated with both North Korea and Syria before November! It will be interesting to see how the press and the Democrats spin the rapid, positive developments against the White House.

Maybe they’ll just focus on First Lady Melania Trump and Russia instead. Good thing we pajama-wearing bloggers are still doing the job the Trump-hating American media won’t.


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