South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday reshuffled the cabinet and appointed a new ambassador to the United States amid an escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and a trade spat with Japan, presidential spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said.

The spokeswoman said that Moon had replaced the ministers of justice, science and technology, agriculture and the minister for women and family.

"The current changes in the cabinet and the ambassador emphasize the policy of reforms of the government of Moon Jae-in," Ko told reporters during a briefing whose video was published on Facebook.

Diplomat Lee Soo-hyuck, who once worked as the deputy foreign minister and intelligence chief, was nominated to become the new ambassador to the United States, replacing Cho Yoon-je.

Electric engineering professor Choi Ki-young from the Seoul National University was chosen to head the science ministry amid Japan’s ban on exports of chemicals used in electronics to South Korea . Choi has been calling for raising the competitiveness of South Korea’s industry and cutting its dependence on foreign technology.

Former presidential secretary for civil affairs Cho Kuk was nominated for the position of the justice minister.

Kim Hyeon-soo, the former deputy minister for agriculture, has been tapped to lead the Agricultural Ministry.

Women’s rights supporter Lee Jung-ok was picked to become the minister for women and family.

Moon also replaced four other minister-level officials in the government.

Ko noted that the candidacies should be approved by the parliament.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula has recently escalated over repeated launches of what Seoul believed to be short-range missiles by Pyongyang. North Korea called the launches a warning against South Korean-US joint military drills, held this week.

Seoul’s trade dispute with Tokyo, in turn, followed a decision by a South Korean court to force Japanese companies to provide compensations to the victims of forced labour during the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-1945. Japan has also excluded South Korea from its list of preferential trade partners, citing security concerns.