updated 8/14/2006 1:20:49 AM ET 2006-08-14T05:20:49

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 Sunday.

Kim visited a farm run by an army unit and was accompanied by top generals, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. As usual with such reports, the exact time or location of the trip were not given.

Kim’s last reported public appearance was July 4, a day before Pyongyang launched seven missiles, including a new long-range model believed capable of reaching the U.S. that failed shortly after takeoff. The move violated the country’s self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile launches.

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

Since North Korea test-launched the shorter-range Taepodong-1 rocket over Japan in 1998, Pyonyang’s missile program has been regarded as a major security issue in Northeast Asia, adding to concerns about the hardline regime’s pursuit of nuclear bombs.

Kim’s absence from public view had fueled speculation of 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 was not reported to have ventured out for seven weeks after the country quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the United States moved toward invading Iraq.

‘Military-first’ policy
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 country during the 1990s. Floods that struck the country in mid-July have raised concerns about new threats to its food supply, and left a reported 844 dead and missing.

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