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Lee holds security ministers' meeting to discuss N. Korea
SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened a meeting of top security officials and discussed the situation in North Korea, his spokesman said Wednesday, amid intensifying speculation surrounding Pyongyang's surprising dismissal of a top general.

   Lee instructed officials to keep a close watch over North Korea and work closely together with other nations, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said without elaborating. Participants included the foreign, defense and unification ministers as well as the spy agency chief and the national security advisor.

   North Korea announced Monday that Ri Yong-ho, the chief of the military's general staff, was removed from all his posts because of unspecified "illness." The announcement came as a surprise as Ri has been considered to have played a key role in new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un taking over the regime after his father Kim Jong-il's death.

   Media have speculated there could be a power struggle in the reclusive nation.

   "We can't make public what was discussed," a senior presidential official said. "But it is not unusual for a powerful North Korean military official to fall abruptly. There was a report about internal movements in North Korea's inner circle and military movements."

   Sources said participants decided to strengthen intelligence efforts toward the North.

   jschang@yna.co.kr
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