North Korea has named a new defense minister ahead of a controversial long-range rocket launch.

The North's official media referred to Kim Jong Gak on Tuesday as People's Armed Forces Minister. That title is the equivalent of defense minister.

The appointment comes as North Korea prepares to launch a three-stage rocket sometime between Thursday and Monday. Pyongyang says it aims to put an observational satellite in orbit.

The United States calls it a test of ballistic missile technology.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency also says two other senior officials have been promoted to vice marshal. The reshuffle comes ahead of a key ruling party conference Wednesday and a parliamentary meeting Friday.