Un makes 1st public speech during ceremony for Il Sung

Published: Sunday, April 15 2012 12:09 a.m. MDT

In this image made from KRT video, North Korean military soldiers march during a massive celebration marking the 100th birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung, at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has spoken publicly for the first time at the celebration. (AP Photo/KRT via AP video) NORTH KOREA OUT, TV OUT

Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spoke publicly for the first time Sunday, just two days after a failed rocket launch, portraying himself as a strong military chief unafraid of foreign powers during festivities meant to glorify his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

The young new leader, dressed in a dark Mao suit, appeared confident and calm as he read from notes before tens of thousands of people gathered in Pyongyang's main square during meticulously choreographed festivities honoring the late Kim Il Sung, whose 100th birthday was Sunday.

Kim Jong Un's words mirrored what North Korea regularly says in its state media, but there was symbolic power in the images of the new leader, who is believed to be in his late 20s, addressing the country on state TV and then watching — and often laughing and gesturing in relaxed conversation with senior officials — as a parade of North Korean military troops and hardware marched by.

In the speech, he made it clear that the military will continue to have a dominant role in running the country, just as it did under his father and former leader Kim Jong Il, who died in December.

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