North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly conducted another purge of a top official.
South Korea is investigating reports that Choi Ryong Hae, the second most powerful man in the North Korean regime, has been arrested and is undergoing interrogation, reports The Times UK .
Choi is believed to have risen up the ranks after Kim’s high-profile purge and execution of his uncle and mentor Chang Sung Taek in December. Chang is believed to have been executed because of his interest in reforming and opening parts of North Korea’s economy.
Reports of Choi’s arrest came as North Korea fired a volley of shots into the sea using multiple rocket launchers, in an apparent show of force to coincide with South Korea-US joint military exercises, South Korean officials said.
North Korea fired three shots before noon local time, using a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), a high-mobility automatic launcher capable of firing surface-to-surface rockets, the South’s Defence Ministry said.
The projectiles were launched from the North’s eastern port of Wonsan and flew 55 kilometres into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), it said.
The North fired four more MLRS shots from 4.17pm (0717 GMT) that flew about 155 kilometres, the ministry said.
“North Korea is believed to have tested two different types of MLRS,’’ said a ministry spokesman.
South Korean troops have increased their vigilance following a series of North Korean missile launches that drew condemnation from South Korea and the United States.
North Korea test-fired four short-range Scud missiles off its east coast last week, followed by two more missiles on Monday.
South Korea called the missile launches a “reckless provocation”, while the United States demanded the North show restraint and abide by UN Security Council resolutions.
The Scuds are at the longer edge of the short-range spectrum, with an estimated reach of 300-800 kilometres – capable of striking any target in the South.
It is not unusual for North Korea to carry out such tests, which often go unreported by South Korea.
But Washington said the latest missile tests breached UN resolutions that require Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile programme.
The missile tests have clearly been timed to coincide with annual South Korea-US military exercises that started a week ago and run until mid-April.
Pyongyang routinely condemns the South-US joint exercises as rehearsals for invasion.