Interesting developments in North Korea.
First, the "parliament" named a familiar face to the positoin of premiere:
Former North Korean premier Pak Pong-ju, who was sacked in 2007 for failing to successfully implement economic reforms, was re-appointed to the top cabinet post at a meeting of the country's rubber-stamp assembly on Monday, its KCNA news agency said.
"At the session, Deputy Choe Yong-rim was recalled from the post of premier of the DPRK Cabinet and Deputy Pak Pong-ju was elected premier of the DPRK Cabinet," KCNA said.
Competence not being one of Mr. Pak's strong points, one would think he was named to help Kim consolidate his power - which many experts believe is the reason for all the bellicose rhetoric in the first place.
And the North Korean "parliament" sang the praises of nuclear weapons, calling them "the nation's life":
On Sunday, Kim and top party officials adopted a declaration calling nuclear weapons the "the nation's life" and an important component of its defense, an asset that wouldn't be traded even for "billions of dollars." Pyongyang cites the U.S. military presence in South Korea as a main reason behind its drive to build missiles and atomic weapons. The U.S. has stationed tens of thousands of troops in South Korea since the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953.
While analysts call North Korea's threats largely brinkmanship, there is some fear that a localized skirmish might escalate. Seoul has vowed to respond harshly should North Korea provoke its military. Naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters off the Korean coast have led to bloody battles several times over the years. Attacks blamed on Pyongyang in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans.
Deputies to North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly gathered in Pyongyang on Monday, although the session's schedule was unclear.
Under late leader Kim Jong Il, North Korea had typically held a parliamentary meeting once a year. But Kim Jong Un held an unusual second session last September in a sign that he is trying to run the country differently from his father, who died in late 2011.
Parliament sessions, which usually are held to approve personnel changes and budget and fiscal plans, are scrutinized by the outside world for signs of key changes in policy and leadership.
Some analysts are predicting that the current state of relations between the two Koreas will be more or less permanent - that Kim needs the constant threat of war to maintain his power and position. If so, that is very bad news since it would stand to reason that Kim is on shaky ground and may lash out if he feels his power threatened.
The US has placed stealth bombers on South Korean soil, no doubt so they could take out North Korean air defenses in the first hours of a war. Let's hope they won't be needed.