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Mon May 13, 2013
North Korea Replaces Hard-Line Defense Chief
North Korea's hard-line army general, who is believed to have been responsible for attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed 50 people, has been replaced by a relative unknown.
The move has analysts reading the tea leaves. The consensus is that the reshuffle at the top of the People's Armed Forces is part of a larger effort by leader Kim Jong Un to consolidate power over the military.
The promotion of Gen. Jang Jong Nam at the expense of now ex-Chief Gen. Kim Kyok Sik is "not thought to indicate a potential softening of Pyongyang's stance toward Seoul and Washington any time soon," according to The Guardian:
"Outsiders do not know much about Jang, but analysts said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un would name a moderate to the post at a time of tension with the outside world."
The BBC says:
"Officials in Seoul said they were aware of the personnel change, but would 'need more time to figure out the overall direction' and whether the change was significant.
" 'We do not know if [Jang] is a less hawkish figure, but it appears that he is from a younger generation,' South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.
" 'Just because there is a new dot that does not mean that a whole line or landscape changes,' he added."
It's not the first time there have been high-level changes in the military since Kim assumed leadership of the country after his father's death in December 2011.
The Guardian says:
"One of the most notable changes from Kim Jong Un was the replacement of the powerful military chief Ri Yong Ho, who was dismissed because of what Pyongyang called an unspecified illness. Outside observers speculated that Ri, who held a different post from the one Jang has been appointed to, was purged as Kim tried to put his stamp on his government. Ri was also replaced by a little-known general."
Although tensions between North Korea on one side and the United States and South Korea on the other have ratcheted down in recent weeks, Pyongyang on Monday denounced Washington and Seoul over a new joint military exercise involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.