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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea nuclear official appears ousted from top leadership

Ri's apparent demotion seen after Kim berates officials for 'grave incident'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on July 8 to mark the death of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. Ri Pyong Chol stands in the third row, second from the left. Photo supplied by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency   © Reuters

SEOUL -- North Korea has removed from its top leadership an official who played a major role in developing the regime's nuclear and missile arsenal, a newly released photo indicates.

The evident downgrade of Ri Pyong Chol, a leading adviser to Kim Jong Un, comes just over a week after the autocrat mentioned a "grave incident" that hobbled the country's coronavirus response.

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