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(US-NK summit) Kim displays grip on military by having defense chief attend lunch

All News 16:20 June 12, 2018

SINGAPORE, June 12 (Yonhap) -- The presence of North Korea's top military officer in leader Kim Jong-un's working lunch with U.S. President Trump in Singapore on Tuesday had analysts puzzling over the motive for the move.

No Kwang-chol, North Korea's minister of the People's Armed Forces, drew media attention even before the start of the historic summit as the sole uniformed official in the entourages of either leader. The U.S. delegation has no military figure.

No was promoted to minister from vice minister at the North's equivalent of a defense ministry in a military reshuffle in early June.

No's participation in the Kim-Trump lunch, along with other heavyweights like the North's No. 2 official Kim Yong-chol and leader Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong, again indicated that the North's defense chief was playing a significant role.

This image from the Singaporean Prime Minister's Office shows North Korean Minister of the People's Armed Forces No Kwang-chol (R) attending a meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong-un and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 10, 2018. (Yonhap)

North Korea analysts say Kim may have wanted to display his tight grip on the military by having No join the lunch with Trump, regarded as part of the expanded summit attended by key figures from both sides.

They speculated that the North's leader may also have shown confidence in his abilities to control the military's possible resistance to denuclearization, a key agenda item in the talks with Washington.

Domestically, Kim has probably sent a signal that the military has not been sidelined in the summit talks with the U.S., they said.

The North Korean military is known to have led the construction of nuclear test sites and the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Thus, many analysts have raised fears that the military could display discontent over the expected dismantlement of the North's nuclear weapons and missiles.

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