North Korean leader Kim vows to enhance army-first policy
In his first public speech, Kim Jong-un says he will follow in his late father's steps. -Korea Herald/ANN
North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un spoke publicly for the first time in Pyongyang Sunday, vowing to enhance his father's "military first" policy during celebrations to mark the centenary of the nation's founder Kim Il-sung.
Aired live through the Korean Central Broadcasting Station on Sunday morning, the 20-minute speech was occasionally applauded by tens of thousands of people gathered in the Kim Il-sung Square in the capital.
"Here lies our 100-year strategy of revolution and a final victory, as we follow the path of autonomy, the path of the military first and the path of socialism that Great Leader Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il had shown us," said the young leader in his late 20s.
"To build a strong socialist and prosperous nation, we should strengthen the People's Army as the first, second and third priorities," he said.
He also said that superiority in military technology was no longer monopolized by "imperialists" and the era was "forever gone" when nuclear arms could be used to threaten the North.
He said he was "heartbroken" that Koreans have suffered from the division of the peninsula for the past 70 years and that his communist state would "cooperate with anyone" who truly wishes for reunification.
Kim wrapped the speech by shouting, "go forward to the final victory," followed by the crowd's answer, "manse," the English equivalent of "long life."
The young Kim's speech was part of the North's massive celebration of the 100th anniversary of his grandfather's birth.
A two-hour spectacular military parade followed the speech. The parade featured rows of infantry, tanks and heavy artillery, followed by a wide array of missiles, according to news reports from Pyongyang.
What appeared to be a new long-range missile was unveiled during the parade, they said.
Also Sunday, Kim visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace to pay tribute to his late father and grandfather, whose bodies have been embalmed and displayed in glass coffins since their deaths in December 2011 and July 1994, respectively.
The celebrations came just two days after Pyongyang failed in its much-hyped rocket launch. The rocket exploded in mid-air minutes after lift-off.
"Inviting many foreign media, North Korea has become an object of public ridicule in the world," Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo, told IHS Jane's Defense Weekly on Friday.
"It has acted with excessive arrogance and recklessness. To restore fallen prestige, it may adopt a more belligerent stance towards other nations."
Okonogi forecast that since Pyongyang believed the US, Japan and South Korea would now not take North Korea's threats seriously, given the failed rocket launch, it would take the risky step of conducting its third nuclear test.
Despite the rocket launch failure, the North held the Supreme People's Assembly to name Kim Jong-un "first chairman of the National Defense Commission" and made Kim Jong-il "eternal chairman of the National Defense Commission."
It also appointed new members to the nation's top military commission, tightening the new leader's grip on military-based power.
The Korean Central News Agency said Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Korea People's Army Gen. Kim Wong-hong were elected to the National Defense Commission.
In addition, Pyongyang promoted 70 field grade officers to general in new appointments for parliament, Cabinet and regional governments.
It was the first time that North Korea made large scale promotions since the young leader rose to power after the death of long-time leader Kim Jong-il in December.
During the Supreme People's Assembly, the North decided to spend 15.8 per cent of the national budget in military in 2012, the same as in 2011.
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