North Korea names artillery commander as new military chief

SEOUL • Pyongyang has named an army general with expertise in artillery as its new military commander, North Korean state media reported, in a move that an analyst said could signal plans for the development of new weapons.

Colonel-General Pak Jong Chon was appointed the “Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army”, KCNA said late on Friday, adding that the decision was announced during a meeting attended by leader Kim Jong Un.

Col-Gen Pak succeeds Gen Ri Yong Gil, an expert on military operations who has served in the position on two separate occasions since 2013.

His promotion from head of the Korean People’s Army’s Artillery Command may suggest a new military focus on weapons development, said Mr Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and researcher in Seoul.

The North was particularly threatened by the South’s acquisition of cutting-edge American F-35 stealth fighter jets – known for their ability to evade radar detection – earlier this year, Mr Ahn told AFP.

“It is also notable that Pak accompanied Kim during the North’s test-firing of its new weapons,” he added. “With him as the North’s top military officer, it’s more likely that Pyongyang will prioritise artillery along with its new weapons system.”

Col-Gen Pak accompanied Mr Kim when he supervised the test-firing of what North Korea said were “new-type tactical guided missiles” last month.

Col-Gen Pak was also present when Mr Kim oversaw testing of a “newly developed large-calibre multiple launch guided rocket system” in July, KCNA reported at the time.

Col-Gen Pak’s promotion comes as working-level nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain gridlocked, despite an agreement in June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump to kickstart the process.


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