North Korea's leader vows to uphold 'army first' policy


North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, spoke in public for the first time yesterday, choosing the massive ceremony on the centenary of the birth of his grandfather, the "Great Leader", Kim Il-sung, to read from a prepared text vowing to build on the "military-first" policies propounded by his late father, Kim Jong-il.

The fact that Kim Jong-un, below, spoke at all was perhaps the most significant aspect of the occasion, in which thousands of troops in dress uniform stood in formation on Kim Il-sung Square in central Pyongyang. They and thousands more civilians behind them alternated between listening intently and breaking into cheers during his 22-minute address. Kim Jong-il, who died in December, was heard to speak only once in public during the 17 years he ruled North Korea following his father's death in 1994.

In a parade immediately after Kim Jong-un's address, however, it was the sight of heavy-duty weaponry that caught the most attention. The most fearsome was a huge missile, said to be about 15ft longer than the one that failed on Friday.

Although it was unclear whether the missile was genuine, South Korean television described it as "an advanced version" of the long-range missiles that North Korea fired successfully in 1998 and 2009 and unsuccessfully in 2006 and again three days ago.