Mattis: It'll be a 'bumpy road' to summit with North Korea

Mattis: It'll be a 'bumpy road' to summit with North Korea

South Korea's Yonhap news agency says all three have been replaced ahead of the 12 June summit in Singapore, the first meeting between sitting leaders of the U.S. and North Korea.

A senior U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that the three leaders had been ousted.

The chief of general staff Ri Myong Su has been replaced by his deputy Ri Yong Gil, according to Yonhap which cited intelligence sources. Ri was thought to be a confidant of Kim's father, the late leader Kim Jong Il.

And Mattis repeated the USA position that North Korea will only receive relief from United Nations national security sanctions when it demonstrates "verifiable and irreversible steps" to denuclearization.

He stressed that the Singapore meeting is part of a "process" that will go on for some time: "I told them today, 'Take your time".

Meanwhile, North Korea moved to replace its defense minister ahead of the pivotal negotiations, Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday, citing people that it did not identify.

But after meeting with a senior North Korean leader Friday, Trump seemed to walk back that approach. North Korea's leadership is believed to regard nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival.

There were also widespread reports that North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear plant that was destroyed by Israeli bombing in 2007.

Defence minister Pak Yong Sik has been suceeded by former first vice minster No Kwang Chol.

"The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political calibre and wise leadership of HE (His Excellency) Kim Jong-un", Mr Assad said, according to KCNA.

"It looks like they needed someone who can have a firm grip on the military and dynamically push ahead with the new policies amid changes in US-North Korea relations", he added.

Pyongyang has long argued that it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against a possible invasion by the US.

'This points to two things: the consolidation of Kim Jong Un's power as the sole leader of North Korea and strengthened cooperation between the North's party and military as the country works towards further economic development, ' said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

That official said U.S. negotiators' efforts to press for definitions of immediate, comprehensive, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation by North Korea had run into opposition from the White House.

"Japan, Korea and the USA continue to agree that pressure is needed to be applied on North Korea", Onodera told reporters after his meeting with Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo on the sidelines of the Shangri-la Dialogue.

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