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(3rd LD) N. Korea's Kim fires party officials

2015/08/28 15:03

(ATTN: UPDATES with military official's remarks in paras 6-9)

SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has dismissed some members of the ruling party's central military commission, state media reported Friday.

The dismissals took place at an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency. It did not say when the meeting was held, but the communist nation is known to often report events a day after they take place.

The meeting "dismissed some members of the WPK Central Military Commission and appointed new ones and dealt with an organizational matter," the KCNA said in an English dispatch, monitored in Seoul.

It did not elaborate on the reasons for the dismissals, but the report has prompted speculation here that it may be related to the Aug. 4 land mine explosion inside the Demilitarized Zone that maimed two South Korean soldiers.

North Korea initially insisted that it did not place the land mines but later expressed "regret" over the incident in a landmark deal sealed between the Koreas on Tuesday.

South Korean military officials said they are closely monitoring the situation.

"The fact that the North expressed regret over the land mine attack can be seen from Kim Jong-un's perspective as a terrible defeat," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Kim Jong-un has an impulsive and aggressive character, so he won't overlook it."

   The official said he believes someone will have to take responsibility for the land mine attack.

"Once we know who was dismissed, it will be possible to make a fair assumption, so we are closely following the situation," he said.

Kim spoke in detail about the agreement, saying "under the touch-and-go situation the WPK displayed correct leadership art by steering the whole country, all the people and the service personnel, and made resolute decisions and set forth strategic policies for putting the difficult situation under control."

   The deal averted a military clash between the Koreas as tensions flared up over the land mine attack and South Korea's resumption of anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts along the border.

On Aug. 20, North Korea fired artillery shells across the border in apparent anger over the broadcasts, leading to a rare exchange of fire between the sides.

That day, Kim ordered the military to move into a war footing as he presided over the same enlarged session of the party's central military commission.

"Kim Jong-un analyzed and reviewed the preparations for military operations made by the frontline units which had been in the state of war, and the work done in various fields in the areas where the semi-war state had been declared and how the north-south high-level urgent contact was made and appreciated them," the KCNA said.

Kim credited his nation with defending peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region by proposing the inter-Korean talks first.

Peace was restored because of the North's "tremendous military muscle with the nuclear deterrent for self-defense," he noted, "underscoring once again the need to channel top priority efforts into bolstering up the military capability for national defense."

   Kim "specified strategic tasks and ways for doing so," but the KCNA did not elaborate.

The North Korean leader also ordered recovery work in the aftermath of a flood that killed more than 40 people and destroyed many houses in the northeastern border town of Rason.

The recovery should be completed before the 70th founding anniversary of the party, which falls on Oct. 10, he said.

On Kim's remarks, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it "assesses" the fact that the North called the agreement a turning point toward inter-Korean reconciliation and trust.

"We expect North Korea will abide by the agreement and urge it to faithfully implement it," spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said during a press briefing.

Asked whether South Korea plans to provide flood relief to the North, Jeong said the government will review the issue from a humanitarian stance if the North requests help.