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Kim Jong Un sacks North Korea's second-most powerful military leader

North Korea's Kim Jong Un has sacked the country's second-most powerful military official, according to state media.

Second to only the North Korean leader himself, Pak Jong Chon, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party and a secretary of the party's Central Committee, was replaced by Ri Yong Gil.

No reason was given for the change, with Pyongyang regularly revamping its leadership.

The announcement was made at the committee's annual meeting last week, which is often used to announce major policy decisions and personnel reshuffles.

State television showed Mr Pak sitting front row of the podium with his head down during the meeting. Later his seat was unoccupied.

Official news agency KCNA, also released photos of Mr Kim's New Year's Day visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where Mr Pak was also absent.

This differed to October when Mr Pak accompanied Mr Kim on a trip to the palace, which houses the bodies of his grandfather and father, to mark an anniversary of the party.

The replacement came as Mr Kim called for the development of new intercontinental ballistic missiles and a larger nuclear arsenal to counter the United States and South Korea.

Mr Pak rapidly moved up the military ladder, going from a one-star artillery commander to a four-star general in five years.

In late 2020, he was promoted to the politburo and earned the title of marshal, the highest military rank under Mr Kim. Taking credit for contributing to progress in the country's short-range missile technology, he became a leading voice last November against joint South Korea-US military exercises.

Similar to other top military aides, Mr Pak was briefly demoted in mid-2021, after Mr Kim chided some officials for their handling of North Korea's anti-coronavirus policy. He was promoted again months later.

Oh Gyeong-sup, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said a recent flare-up in inter-Korean tension over the intrusion of North Korean drones into the South, could have played a role in Mr Pak's dismissal.

Mr Oh said that three drones reportedly sent from South Korea in response to the intrusion, failed to be detected by North Korea, after there was no response from the country.

"Pak might have taken responsibility for the failure of security operations," Mr Oh said.

Mr Pak's dismissal comes despite Mr Kim mostly lauding the military's advances in weapons development during the committee's meeting, unlike other areas where he pointed out some faults and called for improvement.