North Korean show of strength for Kim Jong-un

North Korea's leader-in-waiting, the youngest son of ailing ruler Kim Jong-il, has made his public debut during the reclusive state's biggest military parade in years.

Kim Jong-un joined his father and top military and ruling party officials, as well as Chinese officials, as the giant military parade marched in central Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-un's attendance at that event would further increase his standing as the country's next leader.

Massive number of troops, missiles, armoured vehicles and artillery rockets were mobilized for the biggest parade in years in Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung Square.

The secretive state with nuclear weapons ambitions has invited foreign media to watch the parade, giving the world its first independent look at the leader-in-waiting.

Up until his appointment as a general and a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the party late last month, little was known about the young Kim other than that he was educated in Switzerland.

Kim's father, 68-year-old Kim Jong-il, is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008. But he has shown no sign of losing his grip on power and was reappointed last month as secretary-general of the Workers' Party.

A stable succession would be a relief to North Korea's economically powerful neighbours, China, South Korea and Japan, which worry that regime collapse could result in massive refugee flows and possibly descend into civil war.