North Korea 'military reshuffle' raises eyebrows in Seoul

Mattis: Sanctions Stay on N. Korea Until Denuclearization Progress

Mattis: Sanctions Stay on N. Korea Until Denuclearization Progress

Speaking at a security conference in Singapore ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Mattis said it is vital that the global community keeps UN Security Council sanctions in place for now.

North Korea's three most senior military officials have been replaced, a US official told Reuters.

Trump met with former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong Chol for about 90 minutes Friday - the highest-level North Korean official to visit the U.S. in 18 years.

North Korean delegates led by Kim Chang-son, Kim Jong-un's de facto chief of staff, have also stayed at the Fullerton.

No date has been given for the summit, which would be the first public meeting between Kim and another head of state in Pyongyang.

The Trump administration wants the North to "denuclearise", meaning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal, in return for relief from economic sanctions.

A United Nations report leaked in February accused the North of making 40 shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017 of materials including acid-resistant tiles, valves and pipes that could be used to make chemical weapons.

"It looks like they needed someone who can have a firm grip on the military and dynamically push ahead with the new policies amid changes in US-North Korea relations", he added.


The White House, State Department, CIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond immediately to requests for official comment.

South Korea's unification and defence ministries declined to confirm the report, while an official at the Unification Ministry said the government was watching the leadership situation in the North very closely.

Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said the reported new military leadership brings expertise in military-run economic affairs rather than combat strategies.

'The nuclear weapons are a side issue, ' he said.

All of the newly promoted officials are younger than their predecessors, including 63-year-old Ri Yong Gil, who is 21 years younger than Ri Myong Su.

The U.S. and North Korea "are believed to have settled on the Capella Hotel" on the resort island of Sentosa for their meetings, the Washington Post said on Sunday quoting sources.

Yet, as The Guardian noted, the USA has said nothing about North Korea's chemical and biological weapons programs.

He stressed that the Singapore meeting is part of a "process" that will go on for some time: "I told them today, 'Take your time".

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