North Korea appointed Hyon Yong-chol as the vice marshal of the Korean People's Army a day after former army chief and Vice-Marshal Ri Yong-ho was removed from all official posts due to unspecified illness.

The decision was made by the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea and the National Defense Commission of North Korea, KCNA said.

The statement, however, didn't clarify whether Hyon will succeed Ri as the new army chief.

Hyon, a member of the central committee of Workers' Party of Korea, is now one of the four Vice-Marshals of the KPA.

Ri was Chief of the General Staff of the KPA since February 2009 and was the Vice-Chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission.

Hyon, believed to have been appointed as lieutenant general in 2002 and promoted as general in 2010, is currently not a part of the military commission chaired by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Though little is known of his age and hometown, the South Korean media reported Hyong as being in charge of defending the northern border between North Korea and China.

Analysts, as reported by the media in Seoul, speculate that promoting the lesser-known Hyon may be an indication that Kim Jong-un is reshuffling the military leadership and replacing it with his close aides.

The official explanation for Ri's illness was received with skepticism as high-ranking officials in Pyongyang customarily remain in service until they die, regardless of their health conditions, Bloomberg reported quoting Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, as saying.

The sudden dismissal of Ri, one of the three key mentors tasked with equipping the rather young and inexperienced Kim to execute his duties, has North Korea watchers wondering as to what is really afoot.   

Analysts voice suspicion that he was purged in a regime power struggle.

When Kim Jong Il was alive, Ri was at the core of laying the groundwork for the succession, so for him to be removed from every position makes it highly likely that some kind of feud has been going on in the regime, Kim Kwang-in of the North Korea Strategy Center told the Daily NK.

The White House said that it would not evaluate the significance of the sudden removal of North Korea's military chief as a sign of North Korean leader beginning to assert himself.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaking to reporters on Monday said: Well, I don't have any comment on the specific personnel move (of Ri's dismissal). And I think that the way we address the issue of policy towards North Korea has to do with holding North Korea accountable to its international obligations and judging North Korea by its actions, and not spending a lot of time trying to read into personnel moves in what is one of the world's most opaque governments and societies.