May 13, 2013
North Korea has replaced its hawkish armed forces minister with a younger general. The move comes as the US and South Korea launch new naval war games, which Pyongyang decried as “blackmail” and a “provocation.”
General Kim Kyok-sik – who reportedly ordered the 2010 shelling of a South Korean island – was appointed to his post last November. In a Monday report, state news agency KCNA announced that the relatively unknown General Jang Jong-nam is the new minister of the People’s Armed Forces. The general was previously the top military commander of a province of North Korea.
Pyongyang did not comment on the reshuffle, but some Korea experts believe it may be part of the North’s latest move to cool inflamed tensions in the region. Earlier, Pyongyang withdrew two Musudan medium-range ballistic missiles  it had deployed in the east of the country.
While Pyongyang is apparently offering concessions, the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Nimitz anchored off the South Korean port of Busan on Saturday. The ship is scheduled to take part in search and rescue operations and sea maneuvers from Monday to Tuesday off the country’s eastern coast, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced.
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