SEOUL, May 11 (Korea Bizwire) – The North Korean military commander responsible for the country’s recent botched missile launches was removed from the ruling party’s central military commission, the results of the party congress showed Tuesday.
The name of Gen. Kim Rak-gyom, the chief commander of the North Korean military’s strategic forces in charge of missile operations, was omitted when the North released the list of the reshuffled Central Military Commission at the closure of the congress of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
Along with Kim, other officials were let go, which caused a downsizing of the commission to a 12-member body.
South Korean military officials said the move may have been punishment for the back-to-back failures of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“We are paying close attention to the exclusion of strategic forces commander Kim Rak-gyom from the Central Military Commission,” one official here said. “We need to study further personnel decisions, but the likelihood is that Kim may have been held accountable for (the failed launches).”
On the anniversary of founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15, North Korea conducted its first-ever test-launch of the Musudan, which the country has deployed since 2007. This missile carried on a mobile launch platform has a reported range of 3,000-4,000 kilometers.
After the first missile blew up only a few seconds after its launch, North Korea fired two more Musudans in a single day on May 28. Both these missile launches have been confirmed to have failed.
Another test-firing of the North’s submarine-launched ballistic missile on April 23 added to the failures, with the missile shot off from a submarine in the East Sea exploding into three pieces after soaring only 30 km.
The failures dealt a crushing blow to leader Kim’s much-trumpeted push to develop nuclear-armed missiles to launch attacks as far as the United States mainland.