According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korea has replaced its air force chief, Pyongyang’s state media confirmed Monday, as leader Kim Jong-un inspected a major aviation unit.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) identified Lt. Gen. Choe Yong-ho as commander of the air and anti-air forces of the Korean People’s Army, while calling his predecessor Col. Gen. Ri Pyong-chol a “responsible worker” at the Workers’ Party of Korea. Choe Yong-ho (with the talkie walkie on the picture) is a protege of O Kum-chol, the Vice Chief of the Korean People’s Army.
Ri led the air force until recently, according to earlier reports by the KCNA.
It is unusual for a two-star general to take command of the North’s Air Force, with a three-star general being transferred to the Central Committee of the party apparently to hold a high-ranking position.
The replacement may be part of efforts to increase the party’s influence over the Air Force, observers said.
South Korea’s unification ministry said it is aware of the replacement. But it said it has no credible information yet on the reason for it or related background.