Tue, Aug 15, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Kim Jong-il makes rare public visit

AFTER MISSILES, SIGHTSEEING High-ranking generals accompanied the Dear Leader for an inspection of animals in his first appearance since July's missile tests

AP , SEOUL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has made his first public appearance since his country test-launched a barrage of missiles more than a month ago, official media reported.

Kim visited a farm run by an army unit and was accompanied by top generals, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said late on Sunday. As usual with such reports, the exact time or location of the leader's trip weren't given.

Kim's last reported appearance in public had been July 3, a day before the North launched seven missiles, including a new long-range model believed capable of reaching the US that failed shortly after takeoff. The move violated the country's self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile launches.

The launches prompted the UN Security Council to unanimously pass a resolution sanctioning North Korea, which Pyongyang has rejected as an infringement on its sovereign right to conduct missile launches.

Kim's absence from public view had fueled speculation about a possible crisis in the country in the wake of the missile tests and international reaction.

However, Kim has dropped from sight before for longer periods of time: In 2003, he wasn't reported to have ventured out for seven weeks after the country quit the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the US moved toward invading Iraq.

In the latest visit, Kim toured a rabbit and goat farm producing food for the military -- the focus of his songun, or "military-first," policy that gives soldiers first priority for the country's scarce resources.

"As our country has many mountains, it is possible to raise goats and rabbits and other grass-eating animals in every part of it," Kim said, according to KCNA.

As many as 2 million people are believed to have died in famine caused by natural disasters and mismanagement in impoverished North Korea during the 1990s. Floods that struck the country last month raised concerns about new threats to its food supply, and left a reported 844 dead and missing.

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