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Kim Jong Un fires top general and orders North Korean military to step up war plans

Kim pointed at the South Korean capital, Seoul, and its surrounding area on a map at a meeting with generals in pictures released by state media.
Image: Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the central military commission in Pyongyang on Wednesday. KCNA / via AP

HONG KONG — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dismissed his country's top general and ordered the military to step up war preparations “in an offensive way,” state media reported Thursday.

Kim held a meeting of the central military commission in the country's capital, Pyongyang, on Wednesday and discussed plans against its enemy, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. It did not say who the enemy was.

Kim pointed at Seoul and its surrounding area on a map in front of the uniformed generals, pictures released by the agency showed.

Gen. Pak Su Il was also removed from his post as chief of the general staff after just seven months, it said.

Ri Yong Gil, a military veteran who has previously served as defense minister and chief of the general staff, was appointed in his place, the agency added.

It remains to be seen whether Pak's dismissal is significant, according to Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a professor of international relations at King’s College London.

“It would be more important to see whether Pak is losing all his positions or not,” he said. “If yes, I think there is a bigger change.”

Meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang
Kim Jong Un points at a map at the meeting.KCNA / via Reuters

He said that he didn’t think the meeting indicated “that North Korea is an increased threat, but I just think that these are reinforcement of the previous message,” and “an escalation in rhetoric that has been going on for a while.”

North Korea has launched several missiles since the start of this year, and last month it launched the Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, which officials said could reach the U.S. mainland.

It also threatened to shoot down American spy planes after what it said were incursions into its airspace.

At Wednesday’s meeting in Pyongyang, KCNA reported, Kim wanted the army to conduct drills and actively to test new weapons.

It came after he inspected military factories Sunday and urged them to increase their capacity, the agency said.  

The secretive communist state has also vowed to launch satellites at any time after it failed to do so in late May, the state-run magazine Kumsu Kangsan reported Wednesday.

After meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Japan in May, President Joe Biden invited South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to a meeting at Camp David, Maryland, later this month.

The U.S. and South Korea are also scheduled to hold joint military drills shortly afterward.