PYONGYANG, North Korea – The next leader of North Korea from the only ruling family the isolated nation has ever known made his public debut Sunday, clapping and smiling as tanks and rocket launchers rolled past in what was said to be the largest military parade staged by the communist state.

Two weeks after he was made a four-star general and set on the path to succession, Kim Jong Un sat next to his father, current North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and waved from an observation platform to a raucous crowd cheering below.

The celebration marked the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, which rules the impoverished, authoritarian nation. The event was designed, outside experts on North Korea said, to introduce the younger Kim to his people and burnish his image as the next leader, who has the loyalty of the military.

The question of who would lead the nuclear-armed nation of 24 million had arisen after Kim Jong Il reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008. His third son, the Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un, emerged as the heir apparent despite his youth and inexperience.

Dressed in a dark blue civilian suit, the younger Kim watched over a plaza named for his grandfather, North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung, who led his nation during the 1950-53 Korean War.