Kim Jung-un, the young North Korean leader, made his first public speech Sunday – a possible sign of new openness. NBC's Richard Engel reports.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his first public speech called for a push toward "final victory" Sunday during a massive celebration marking the 100th birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung.
Kim, 29, in the 22-minute speech broadcast on state-owned television, praised his grandfather as tens of thousands gathered in Pyongyang's main square for meticulously choreographed festivities that came two days after a failed rocket launch.
"I offer the purest respect and the greatest honor to great comrades Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il," he told cheering crowds, referring to his late grandfather and deceased father. Kim called his grandfather as the eternal leader of the country and "founder and the builder of our revolutionary armed forces."
He also said it was important to keep the military strong and to remember the military is more than rockets.
"Let's go forward toward final victory," he concluded.
Kim also reviewed a military parade as soldiers bedecked with rifles and medals marched and tanks, missiles and other hardware rolled past and military jets flew overhead, the Voice of America reported on Twitter.
The parade included the unveiling of what appears to be a new missile, The Associated Press reported.
While its contents were uncontroversial, the speech itself was a big surprise after many years of silence from Kim's father when he presided over similar events.
Sunday's celebration followed North Korea's attempt to launch a long range rocket, which ended in failure on Friday.
Washington and others had said the Friday rocket launch was a covert test of long-range missile technology.
The state that Kim inherited in December after the death of his father boasts a 1.2 million-strong military, wants to possess a nuclear weapon and to develop the ability to hit the United States with it.
Behind those ambitions are 23 million people, many malnourished, in an economy whose output is worth just $40 billion annually in purchasing power parity terms, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, compared with South Korea's $1.5 trillion economy.
This article includes reporting by Reuters and The Associated Press.