North Korea has appointed an expert in artillery as a new military leader, in a move that signal plans for new weapons development, AFP reported on Saturday September 7th.
Pyongyang named Pak Jong Chon as the "chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army," KCNA said late Friday September 6th, adding that the decision was announced during a meeting attended by leader Kim Jong -un.
Pak succeeds Ri Yong Gil, and is 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 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, 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."
Pak accompanied Kim when he supervised the test-fire of what North Korea said were "new-type tactical guided missiles" in August.
Pak was also present when Kim oversaw the test of a "newly developed large-calibre multiple launch guided rocket system" in July, KCNA reported at the time.