North Korean leader Kim Jong Il made a triumphant return to parliament today after the formality of his reappointment.
Kim, presiding over the opening session of the country’s puppet legislature, was making his first major public appearance since reportedly suffering a stroke last August.
He appeared considerably thinner and older than nine months ago.
Arriving to a standing ovation from fellow deputies to the 687-seat Supreme People’s Assembly, he returned their applause by clapping, then motioned for them to be seated.
Legislators approved Kim as chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission, an appointment that under the constitution makes him the nation’s top leader while his father, late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, remains “eternal president.”
The appearance may put to rest questions about whether Kim, 67, has recovered from a stroke he suffered in mid-August.
His failure to attend a milestone parade marking the 60th anniversary of the country’s founding in September had sparked concerns about his health and fears of a succession crisis.
Kim re-emerged in state media in early October and has steadily visited farms, factories and military units for “on-the-spot field guidance” in an energetic tour widely seen as an attempt to quash rumours about his health.
However, recent photos show him looking frail and extremely thin.
North Korea has sought to build unity and support for Kim in the days preceding the opening session, first with Sunday’s controversial rocket launch and then with a series of documentaries paying homage to his leadership.
North Koreans got their first glimpse on Tuesday of the rogue regime’s rocket launch, more than two days after a lift-off decried by the US, Japan, South Korea and other nations as a provocation that merits international censure.
North Korea claimed it successfully put a communications satellite into orbit and that it was transmitting data and playing patriotic odes.
But US officials say nothing made it into orbit and accused Pyongyang of using the launch to test its long-range missile technology.