SEOUL—In his most high-profile public appearance since being appointed a general and key party leader, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s heir apparent joined his father at a massive military parade in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong Un, believed to be about 27 years old, took center stage during the parade, standing near his father, applauding, and saluting as thousands of goose-stepping troops marched past along with tanks and trucks carrying missiles and other weaponry on Oct. 9.
The parade, one of the largest for years in the nuclear-armed state, gave many North Koreans their first extensive look at the young heir apparent.
On the occasion, North Korea for the first time showed off its Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, a weapon with a reported range of 2,500 to 3,000 km (1,550 to 1,860 miles), South Korea media reported.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency, which monitors Pyongyang's media, said it was the first-ever live broadcast of a military parade in the North.
The young Kim’s prominent role at the parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square marked his military debut and showed his standing in one of the world's largest armies.
The military parade was the climax of celebrations which started at the end of September with the staging of a rare party conference to pick a new leadership.
After months of speculation, the untested junior Kim was made a general and second-in-command to his father on the ruling party's powerful Central Military Commission, as well as being appointed a party Central Committee member.
Until his appointments, little was known about the young Kim other than that he was educated in Switzerland.
Kim Jong Il, 68, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008, but he has shown no sign of losing his grip on power and was reappointed last month as secretary-general of the ruling Workers' Party.
Kim stood for over an hour during the parade and waved to the crowds, but limped noticeably and reached to the balcony for support.
The young Kim, the third son of the ailing leader, is poised to continue dynastic rule in the isolated state which also has ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
Reported by Park Jung Woo for Radio Free Asia and newswires.