Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Purge of North Korean general still a mystery

North Korea's sudden dismissal of Ri Yong Ho from his post as army chief and from all his government posts caught many watchers of the secretive regime of Kim Jong Un by surprise and wondering what was going on.

"To me, it's just another sign of how this transition is quite unstable, and we think it's six months since Kim Jong Il died, and we think everything is normal in North Korea - clearly it's not normal," said Victor Cha, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of a new book on the Kim regime.

For Cha, who traveled to Pyongyang in 2006 as a member of the National Security Council, the announcement signals a transition still in flux. "It's a relative term when you say 'normal' in North Korea, but this is not business as usual, very clearly."

Trying to divine what exactly is behind the decisions of North Korean elites is usually at best a guessing game of sorts, with the opacity of the regime seemingly impenetrable to rigorous analysis by Western governments and intelligence agencies.

"We are aware of developments concerning changes in the DPRK military leadership," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Monday. "We're not in a position to comment on the accuracy of these news reports, but changes in personnel, absent a fundamental change in direction, mean little." Read More