BEIJING -- North Korea's top military official was relieved of his posts, state media reported Monday, a surprise move that eliminates a key figure in the ascendance of the country's young and untested leader, Kim Jong Un.
Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, 69, rose out of obscurity to become a mentor to Kim, the country's supreme commander, and an integral part of the leadership's inner circle after the death of dictator Kim Jong Il last year. Ri accompanied the younger Kim as they walked alongside a hearse carrying the body of Kim Jong Il at his funeral.
North Korea's official news agency said Ri was removed because of illness. The decision was made Sunday after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that ... Ri Yong Ho was dismissed on account of Kim Jong Un's unsatisfactory military grip or as a result of a power struggle in North Korea," Chang Yong-suk, an analyst at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University, told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
-- David Pierson