During a ceremony commemorating the 15th anniversary of the death of Kim Il-sung, his father, Kim Jong-il has attended his second major state event in person since reportedly suffering a stroke last year.
North Korea’s reclusive leader attended the ceremony at a Pyongyang auditorium on Wednesday.
Before that, he presided over a parliamentary meeting in early April, during which he was re-elected as leader.
Kim Il-sung was the leader and founder of the communist state and the object of an intense personality cult. He died of heart failure on 8 July 1994, at the age of 82.
At the memorial, the North Korean leader, dressed in a khaki communist suit, looked more gaunt with less hair than in April, and limped lightly while walking into the auditorium. That is believed to be an aftereffect from the stroke.
He bowed his head during a moment of silence, beneath a portrait of a giant red flag with an image of his father.
“We will sternly smash the US imperialist forces and South Korea’s puppet regime anti-unification plot,” said the North Korea’s deputy, Kim Yong Nam, in footage on state TV, reported by AP news agency.
Military commanders joined Kim Jong-il as he paid respects to his father at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where state media say his embalmed body lies.
Though the regime made no official announcement, it has been widely reported that the leader’s third son, Kim Jong-un, is being groomed as his heir.
North Korea’s leader made his appearance while his country’s intensifying nuclear standoff with the world increases tensions. New conflicting reports have also emerged over a possible missile launch by Pyongyang.
Citing an unditentified intelligence source, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that North Korea is “highly likely” to conduct missile tests early this month.
Yet hours later, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that there were no signs of any imminent missile launch.
Since Thursday morning, North and South Korea are holding a third round of talks on their troubled joint industrial complex, as well as the South’s continued call to release a detained worker at the facility.
The industrial complex is located in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. While these talks are taking place, US and Chinese officials meet in Beijing for talks on implementing UN sanctions against Pyongyang.
The talks in Kaesong are expected to indicate whether the North will ease its demand for huge extra payments from Seoul now that it faces international sanctions.
To the impoverished North, the South Korean-funded Kaesong complex is a significant source of foreign currency. Last year, it received $26m in wage payments.