New pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un riding a white horse through a winter landscape to the summit of Mount Paektu, a sacred peak for North Koreans, have fueled speculation that the young leader could be set to make a major policy announcement.
The images released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) were accompanied by a gushing text that noted the “noble glitters” in Kim’s eyes, and labeled his snowy, horseback ride “a great event of weighty importance” for the nation.
Accompanying officials were left convinced that “there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution,” the agency said.
The hike might signal a new policy direction for the North, analysts said.
“In the past, Kim has climbed Mount Paektu ahead of major political decisions,” said Shin Beom-chul, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies in Seoul.
Kim hiked to the peak in December 2017 before launching diplomatic overtures that led to his first summit with US President Donald Trump, but negotiations have been gridlocked since their second summit collapsed in February, and the North has been raising tensions through a series of missile tests.
The sight of North Korean leaders riding white horses across snow-capped peaks — and in particular Mount Paektu — were a dominant theme of photographs, posters and portraits of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il and grandfather, Kim Il-sung.
According to the images present an imperial motif of a leader protecting the cultural and ideological purity of the nation from corrupt, outside forces, said B.R. Myers, a professor at Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, who specializes in North Korean propaganda,
Kim Jong-un also visited the site of a giant construction project in nearby Samjiyon County and blamed US-led international sanctions for his country’s hardships, KCNA reported.
“The situation of the country is difficult owing to the ceaseless sanctions and pressure by the hostile forces and there are many hardships and trials facing us,” Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying.
North Korea is under multiple sets of UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs.
Pyongyang and Washington this month restarted working-level talks in Sweden, only for it to quickly break down, with the North blaming the US for not giving up its “old attitude.”
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