State-run television gave North Koreans their first glimpse of the country’s “auspicious” rocket launch – and of an apparently healthy leader Kim Jong Il mingling with farmers and watching bears at the zoo.
What the TV didn’t show was just as notable: footage of the “Dear Leader” during the 3 1/2 months after he is believed to have suffered a stroke that sparked fears of a succession crisis in the poor, nuclear-armed nation.
Mr Kim, 67, is expected to make a triumphant public return when he presides over the first session of the country’s new parliament tomorrow for re-election as chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission.
Exclusive footage obtained yesterday by APTN in Pyongyang showed a white rocket with Chosun, the name North Koreans use for their country, emblazoned on the side in red.
The 20-second clip shows the rocket blasting off, then blazing eastward across the sky.
Pyongyang citizen Ri Yong Hwa said the launch was “a great, auspicious event for the nation that displays the spirit and merit of ’military first’ Korea”.
North Korea claimed Sunday’s rocket launch shot a satellite into space, where it allegedly is playing melodious odes to Mr Kim and his late father, who founded the reclusive communist country.
The US and South Korea, however, say the rocket’s third stage fell into the Pacific Ocean with the payload still attached.
They say the launch was a cover for testing long-range missile technology – and are leading a campaign along with Japan at the UN Security Council to censure Pyongyang.
Deputy UN ambassador Pak Tok Hun accused the Security Council of being “undemocratic” by targeting the communist nation while allowing many other countries to launch satellites.