Tens of thousands of North Koreans rallied Wednesday in Pyongyang to support Kim Jong Il as he embarks on his third term as leader and to celebrate a rocket launch that was criticized elsewhere as a violation of UN sanctions.
Kim was expected to attend a session of the North's rubber-stamp parliament Thursday and be re-elected as chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission in his first major public appearance since a reported stroke in August.
The 67-year-old Kim rules the impoverished yet nuclear-armed North in his capacity as chief of the commission, which oversees the country's 1.2 million-member military - one of the world's largest.
His re-election comes amid regional tension over the country's controversial rocket launch Sunday. North Korea claims it sent a satellite into space, but neighboring countries say nothing reached orbit and that the launch was really a test of its long-range missile technology.
The US, Japan and South Korea are leading a campaign in the UN Security Council to penalize the North.