The man who oversaw one of the world's biggest armies is out. Less clear is who takes over Ri Yong Ho's position as North Korea's powerful army chief.
And more importantly, what does it mean?
Ri's sudden dismissal caught North Korea watchers by surprise. He has frequently been by Kim Jong Un's side since the young leader took over following his father's death in December 2011.
In fact, they walked opposite each other during Kim Jong Il's funeral procession.
They appeared together as recently as last week. There was no sign of disagreement, or the "illness" that forced Ri's removal.
The USS George Washington is America’s massive nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. And it’s on its way to the Yellow Sea, not far from the site of Tuesday’s deadly clash between North and South Korea.
The carrier is heading toward the south of Yeonpyeong Island for long-planned U.S.-South Korea joint exercises that are set to start in the coming days.
The North Koreans have already denounced the upcoming drill, saying that the North will launch an additional attack on South Korea if it continues “reckless military provocation.” North Korea indirectly referred to the planned U.S.-South Korea military drill as an example of provocation.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN that the drills are “meant to send a very strong signal of deterrence and also work with our very close allies in South Korea.”
“We’re very focused on restraint – not letting this thing get out of control,” Mullen said.
But the Chinese don’t see it that way.
The North Korean ally expressed “concern” over the exercises. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced, "We oppose any act that undermines peace and stability on the peninsula.”
So will the military exercises deter or provoke? The world awaits Pyongyang’s response… as the USS George Washington makes its way to South Korea.
Seoul's international allies quickly condemned the North's actions. Beijing appealed for calm. But how did Pyongyang respond?
The North Korean news agency, KCNA, warned of "merciless military counteractions" if South Korea intrudes "even 0.001 mm" into its waters.
Here's the full statement on the KCNA website. Prepare for a colorful read.