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North Korean shake up raises eyebrows

July 17, 2012 at 12:40 PM
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SEOUL, July 17 (UPI) -- An abrupt change in hierarchy in North Korea suggests the country's new leader is embarking on his own course, an analyst said.

North Korean state media reported Tuesday that Gen. Hyon Yong Chol was promoted to the rank of vice marshal of the North Korean military. The promotion followed the announcement of the dismissal of top military commander Ri Yong Ho for what state media described as an illness.

Analysts say the shake-up suggests North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reconfiguring the military with figures said to favor his leadership style. Baek Seung-joo, an analyst at the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said former leader Kim Jong Il favored military leaders with strong credentials to offset his political experience.

"But Kim Jong Un, who is less experienced, is expected to favor soldiers who have a sense of politics," Baek was quoted by the Yonhap news agency in South Korea as saying.

Kim Jong Un is the later leader's son. He took control over North Korea after Kim Jong Il died in December.

Tensions in the region have escalated since Kim's death. North Korea early this year was suspected of preparing for a nuclear test following a failed rocket launch in April. Similar launches in 2006 and 2009 coincided with nuclear tests.

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