North Korea said Wednesday that it had given the title of marshal of the army to its young leader, Kim Jong Un, the latest in a string of moves to reconfigure the top ranks of the military.
Kim, who is already referred to as "supreme commander" of the Korean People's Army, has been awarded the title of marshal by the reclusive regime's most powerful political and military bodies, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The announcement follows the removal of the army chief, Ri Yong Ho, from all his government posts on Sunday, a decision KCNA said was motivated by an unspecified illness. Ri was considered one of Kim's closest aides.
A day later, North Korea promoted a little known general, Hyon Yong Chol, to the rank of vice marshal.
Analysts have speculated that the moves may show signs of a struggle within the regime between the military and civilian elites as Kim seeks to consolidate power after succeeding his father, Kim Jong Il, who died in December.
The young leader's new title is probably partially related to the recent military reshuffle and appears intended "to emphasize he's in a position of power," said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in South Korea.
Kim Jong Il held the title of marshal when he ruled North Korea. In February, he was posthumously named "generalissimo" or grand marshal. As a result, Kim Jong Un had been widely expected to take the title of marshal.
"I recently spoke to a group of North Korean specialists and everyone was surprised the promotion had not happened yet," Lankov said.