Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's top military chief and key advisor to new leader Kim Jong-un, has been removed from all posts, according to state media reports.
Reports from Pyongyang state that he was removed from all duties 'because of illness,' but analysts outside North Korea suspect he might have been side-lined for political reasons.
The move has surprised many political commentators, with some believing his removal is due to a power struggle in government.
Holding top positions in the Worker's Party and chief of the Korean people's army, Ri Yong-ho was believed to be one of the key figures in the North Korean leader's inner circle.
Until now the army chief had been seen as a mentor figure to the young and inexperienced Kim Jong-un, who has been trying to successfully negotiate the first few months of his leadership.
Kim Jong-un took over the premiership after his father's Kim Jong-il, died in December 2011. It remains to be seen if further dismissals of high ranking officers will take place.
By Alfred Joyner