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North Korea’s Kim dismisses top general, calls for war preparations

North Korea’s Kim dismisses top general, calls for war preparations
An undated photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 06 August 2023 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trying a weapon during an inspection of major munitions factories at an undisclosed location in North Korea. According to KCNA, the North Korean leader visited major munitions factories from 03 to 05 August 2023, including a factory producing the shells of large-caliber multiple rocket launchers. EPA-EFE/KCNA

SEOUL, Aug 10 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un replaced the military's top general and called for more preparations for the possibility of war, a boost in weapons production, and expansion of military drills, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

Kim made the comments at a meeting of the Central Military Commission which discussed plans for countermeasures to deter North Korea’s enemies, which it did not name, the report said.

The country’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Pak Su Il was “dismissed,” KCNA reported, without elaborating. He had served in his role for about seven months.

Pak was replaced by General Ri Yong Gil, who previously served as the country’s defence minister, as well as the top commander of its conventional troops.

Ri also previously served as the army chief of staff. When he was replaced in 2016 his sacking and subsequent absence from official events sparked reports in South Korea that he had been executed. He reappeared a few months later, when he was named to another senior post.

Kim also set a target for the expansion of weapons production capacity, the report said, without providing details. Last week he visited weapons factories where he called for more missile engines, artillery and other weapons to be built.

Photos released by KCNA showed Kim pointing at Seoul and areas surrounding the South Korean capital on a map.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine, including artillery shells, rockets and missiles. Russia and North Korea have denied those claims.

Kim also called for the military to conduct drills with the country’s latest weapons and equipment to keep its forces ready for combat, the report said.

North Korea is set to stage a militia parade on Sept. 9, marking the 75th anniversary of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic. North Korea has a number of paramilitary groups it uses to bolster its military forces.

The US and South Korea are scheduled to hold military drills between Aug. 21 and 24, which the North sees as a threat to its security.

By Hyunsu Yim

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Josh Smith in Seoul; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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