Jon Pyong Ho was a former North Korean missile expert who was placed under sanctions by the United Nations for his role in the country's nuclear and missile weapons programmes. The announcement of his death came as North Korea launched short-range missiles into its eastern waters.
Jon was a highly decorated general in the Korean People's Army (KPA) and a senior figure in the Worker's Party of Korea (WPK) figure. "He made a special contribution to turning the KPA into a powerful elite revolutionary army equipped with modern and defensive means and converting the DPRK into a satellite producer, launcher, and a nuclear weapons state," the official KCNA news agency said in a statement.
Jon's passing is unlikely to have any impact on the North's weapons programme because he had retired and passed his duties on to successors. However, he was still an influential figure. "He was certainly so powerful that when he left office as WPK Secretary and Director of Munitions Industries in 2010, Kim Jong Il essentially split his old position in two," said Michael Madden, an expert on the North's leadership.
He was born in Musan County, in North Hamgyong Province, and was educated at the Ural Engineering College in the Soviet Union, from where he graduated in 1950. Returning to Korea, he went on to become a close adviser to the late leader Kim Jong Il, and worked for more than four decades as a senior figure in the production and development of North Korean arms before retiring from public life in 2011. When he was in office he oversaw development of the North's long-range ballistic missile programmes and was directly involved with its first test of a nuclear device in 2006. In 2008 and 2009 he supervised the North's second major long-range missile test and its second nuclear test.
He also helped broker a deal with Pakistan in the 1990s that provided Pyongyang with technology for its uranium enrichment programme, including gas centrifuge technology, and exported advanced North Korean missile technology that is still in use by Pakistan.
US intelligence reported that he was a key figure in the North's international weapons trade that involved shipping components for long-range missiles, nuclear reactors and conventional arms to countries including Iran, Syria and Myanmar. He was individually named in sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations, US and European Union.
"Although Jon passed away, the exploits he performed on behalf of the party, the revolution and the country will shine on," KCNA said in their statement. Jon received a state funeral in Pyongyang.
Jon Pyong Ho, missile expert: born March 1926; died 7 July 2014.