North Korea replaces hard-line defence Chief

PTI Seoul | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 13, 2013

North Korea has replaced its hard-line Defence Chief with a little-known army general, according to a state media report today, in what outside analysts call an attempt to install a younger figure meant to solidify leader Kim Jong Un’s grip on the powerful military.

Jang Jong Nam’s appointment is the latest move since Kim succeeded his late father in late 2011 that observers see as a young leader trying to consolidate control.

The announcement comes amid easing animosities after weeks of war-like threats between the rivals, including North Korean vows of nuclear strikes. Pyongyang’s rhetorical outbursts against massive US-South Korean war drills and UN sanctions over the North’s February nuclear test were seen, in part, as a push to portray Kim Jong Un at home as a respected military commander on the world stage.

Jang’s new role as minister of the People’s Armed Forces, however, is not thought to indicate a potential softening of Pyongyang’s stance toward Seoul and Washington any time soon, analysts said.

Jang replaces Kim Kyok Sik, the former commander of battalions believed responsible for attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

Outsiders do not know much about Jang, but analysts said it is unlikely that Kim Jong Un would name a moderate to the post at a time of tension with the outside world.

Mention of Jang’s new role was buried in a state media dispatch listing those who attended an art performance with Kim Jong Un. It is not known exactly when Jang was formally appointed to the ministerial post.

The announcement coincided with the beginning today of US-South Korean naval exercises involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier.

North Korea has criticised the carrier’s inclusion in the drills, which it claims are preparations for an invasion of the North.

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Published on May 13, 2013
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