September 29, 2014 12:07
Ri Pyong-chol, a commanding officer in the North Korean air force, is emerging as the most powerful figure in the North Korean military.
Ri was appointed to the top decision-making National Defense Commission at a regular session of the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang last Thursday.
"It's the first time a field commander has been appointed a member of the Defense Commission," a government official here said Friday. "We need to watch what role he'll play in the future."
Ri's promotion probably has something to do with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's special interest in the aviation sector. Out of 40 military-related on-site inspections he undertook this year, 10 involved the air force.
"It seems Kim Jong-un wants to drastically increase the North's anti-air capabilities for fear of U.S. airstrikes on the leadership," Chung Sung-jang of the Sejong Institute speculated, especially at a time when U.S. airstrikes against Middle Eastern regimes it dislikes are becoming an annual event.
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