Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 10:54 UK

Kim Jong-il appears at memorial


Kim Jong-il marks the 15th anniversary of his father's death

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has made a rare public appearance for commemorations of the 15th anniversary of his father's death.

Observers said he looked gaunt and limped slightly while entering the crammed auditorium where the ceremony was held in the capital Pyongyang.

It was the second major state event the 67-year-old has attended since suffering a suspected stroke in August.

His poor health has led to concerns of a power struggle if he dies suddenly.

Wednesday's memorial came after Pyongyang carried out UN-banned ballistic missile tests on Saturday, raising tensions further in the region after it announced a second nuclear test in May.

We will sternly smash the US imperialist forces and South Korea's puppet regime anti-unification plot
Kim Yong Nam
Deputy leader

Wearing a khaki suit, Mr Kim bowed his head during a moment of silence, beneath a portrait of a giant red flag with an image of his father, Kim Il-sung.

The North's deputy leader, Kim Yong Nam, issued the regime's by now familiar denunciation of the United States and South Korea.

"We will sternly smash the US imperialist forces and South Korea's puppet regime anti-unification plot," he said in footage on state TV, reported by AP news agency.

Kim Jong-il was joined by military commanders as he paid respects to his father at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where his embalmed body lies, according to state media.

It has been widely reported that Kim Jong-il's third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is being groomed as his heir, although the regime has made no official announcement.

Kim Il-sung - the communist state's founding leader and object of an intense personality cult - died of heart failure on 8 July 1994 at the age of 82.

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