BEIJING: North Korea's new leader has delivered his first major public speech and unveiled what appeared to be a new long-range ballistic missile at a mass military parade in honour of the centenary of his grand-father's birth.
Kim Jong-un, who was officially installed as the paramount leader of the impoverished state last week after the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December, underlined the military-first policy that has put North Korea on the verge of nuclear weapons capability in three generations of Kim family rule.
North Korean leader makes first public speech
North Korea's new leader has addressed the world for the first time Sunday, vowing to place top priority on his impoverished nation's military.
Kim Jong-un, clad in a black Mao suit, rarely looked up from his notes in a 20-minute address, in which he paid tribute to his father and grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the ''founder and the builder of our revolutionary armed forces''.
''Let's go on for our final victory,'' he said, speaking in a low yet youthful voice, pointing his finger in the air towards tens of thousands of cheering troops. He wore a wide grin as he watched the ensuing military parade, waving and saluting frequently to soldiers and supporters in the crowd.
While there were no major surprises in the content of his speech - there was no mention of the embarrassing Unha-3 rocket launch failure two days earlier - his public address, broadcast on state television, was unprecedented in itself.
With fears North Korea could ramp up its nuclear program in response to the failed rocket launch, military analysts in Japan and South Korea were sent scrambling by what appeared to be a newer, and possibly bigger, intercontinental ballistic missile unveiled in yesterday's elaborate military parade.
''It looked like more than a mock-up, and like it could be intended as an ICBM, but it is very hard to tell at this point,'' said Isaku Okabe, a private Japanese military specialist.
Sohn Young-hwan, a South Korean rocket scientist who heads the privately funded Institute of Technology and Management Analysis in Seoul, said the missile was possibly an intermediate-range ballistic missile, but not an ICBM.
Analysts have speculated for months that North Korea has been working on a rocket that is bigger and stronger than the Unha-3 that failed barely a minute after lift-off on Friday. Other analysts have pointed out the gantry used to support the failed launch was much bigger than it needed to be, suggesting Pyongyang had a bigger launch in mind.
The new missile supposedly being worked on is rumoured to have boosters that give it a range of close to 10,000 kilometres. That would theoretically allow it to reach the US - and Australia - though North Korea has fallen well short of a successful rocket launch in previous attempts.
It has used military parades to reveal missiles before. A 2010 parade debuted a road-mobile ballistic missile.