North Korean military chief removed from political posts

A high-ranking North Korean military official who has been a close ally of the reclusive state's new leader has been relieved of his political posts due to illness, according to state media.

Ri Yong-ho was relieved of all his posts in the ruling Workers' Party Korea at a politburo meeting on Sunday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with Ri Yong-ho. Credit: REUTERS

It was not clear from the report whether 70-year-old Ri, a career military man who held the rank of vice-marshal, was relieved of his posts in the Army.

Ri has been a prominent member of new leader Kim Jong-un's circle of close political allies. Kim took power after his father Kim Jong-il died last December.

Some analysts questioned the claim that illness was the reason for Ri's dismissal.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that [Ri] was dismissed on account of Kim Jong-un's unsatisfactory grip on the military, or as a result of a power struggle in North Korea," Chang Yong-suk, an analyst at Seoul National University, told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.