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North Korea appoints new defense minister ahead of contraversial rocket launch

Kim Jong Gak was previously in charge of military administration and organization.

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North Korea technicians watch live images of the rocket Unah-3 at the satellite control room of the space center on the outskirts of Pyongyang on April 11, 2012. North Korea says that the fuelling of a long-range rocket is under way, ahead of the launch scheduled for later this week. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea has appointed a new armed forces minister ahead of its controversial rocket launch.

AFP says that the official ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun has announced Kim Jong Gak has been named "minister of the people's armed forces."

Jong Gak was previously in charge of military administration and organization, Associated Press says.

He replaces 75-year-old Kim Yong Chun, who was a confidant of the late leader Kim Jong Il and had served in the military since 1956.

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AFP quotes analyst Cheong Seong Chang, of South Korea's Sejong Institute as saying that the move "indicates that Jong Un is appointing close confidants to key posts."

Meanwhile, some Asian airlines have planned to change flight paths to avoid the rocket North Korea is expected to launch in the next few days, according to Today Online.

Twenty airlines including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan Airlines (JAL), Korean Air, Garuda Indonesia and Delta Airlines will be reroute flights between Thursday and next Monday.

More from GlobalPost: Obama tests his sway over North Korea

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120411/north-korea-appoints-new-defence-minister-ahead-contravers