PYONGYANG, North Korea — Clapping, waving and even cracking a smile, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il joined his father Sunday at a massive military parade in his most public appearance since being unveiled as the nation's next leader.
Kim Jong Un, dressed in a dark blue civilian suit, sat next to his father on an observation platform at Kim Il Sung Plaza as armored trucks with rocket launchers and tanks rolled by as part of celebrations marking the 65th anniversary of the reclusive state's ruling Workers' Party.
It was a momentous public debut for Kim Jong Un less than two weeks after he was made a four-star general and set on the path to succession, which would carry the Kim dynasty over the communist country into a third generation. His grandfather, Kim Il Sung, was the nation's founder.
Just days earlier, the world got a first glimpse of the son from photos published in a state newspaper. Sunday's appearance was carried live by state TV, beaming him into North Korean households and giving the people their first good look at the future leader.
Seeing the two Kims side by side above a huge portrait of Kim Il Sung, and later waving to the crowd, drew raucous cheers of "Hurrah!" and some tears from North Koreans attending the parade in the heart of Pyongyang.
"Kim Jong Il! Protect him to the death!" ''Kim Jong Il, let's unite to support him!" they chanted as the 68-year-old leader walked the length of the platform, appearing to limp slightly and gripping the banister.
The Kims later also appeared at a nighttime celebration that exploded into a grand spectacle of fireworks and patriotic music. Historical footage of Kim Il Sung played on big screens as thousands of dancers below performed intricate choreographed routines. At one point, the dancers seemed to transform the stadium floor into a vast sea of ocean waves, then a field of trees.
The Worker's Party parade was said to be North Korea's largest ever, an impressive display of unity and military might for a country known for its elaborately staged performances.
Thousands of troops from every branch of North Korea's 1.2 million-member military, as well as naval academies and military nursing schools, goose-stepped around the plaza to the accompaniment of a military brass band while citizens waved plastic bouquets.
Trucks loaded with katyusha rocket launchers rolled past, but they were dwarfed by a series of missiles, each larger than the last and emblazoned with: "Defeat the U.S. military. U.S. soldiers are the Korean People's Army's enemy."
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