North Korean state media has said the country's army chief has been relieved of all his posts because of illness. It represents the loss of a figure many had seen as part of young leader Kim Jong-Un's inner circle.
The official news agency of North Korea said on Monday that Ri Yong-Ho had been removed from all his posts due to illness.
The decision was made at a Workers' Party meeting the day earlier, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency
Ri, pictured above third from right, is regarded as one of the key figures in supporting Kim Jong-Un in the transition that followed the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in December last year.
He became head of the army in 2009, taking the official title Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army. Ri has often accompanied the young Kim on visits to military bases and was often seen standing between father and son at major events before the death of Kim Jong-Il.
Ri helped lead the funeral procession for the leader, as well as a parade celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean military.
Significant loss of influence
He will also no longer serve as "vice-chairman of the central military commission" of the Workers' Party.
The move has led to speculation that Ri might be out of favor with elements of the leadership within Pyongyang.
"He might have fallen into disfavor with Kim Jong-Un or lost in a power struggle with other military leaders," Professor Yang Moo-Jin, of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told the AFP news agency. "His removal from posts is likely to speed up generational changes in the military," added Yang.
It remains unclear who is set to succeed Ri and the state agency did not elaborate on his condition or future.
rc/av (AFP, AP, dpa)