Kim Jong-un: North Korean leader rides horse up sacred mountain

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has climbed the country’s highest mountain on horseback, according to state media.

A series of photos released by KCNA show Mr Kim astride a white horse on a snow-covered Mount Paektu.

This is not the first time he has scaled the 2,750-metre peak and analysts say such gestures have been known to precede major announcements.

The mountain holds a special place in the country’s identity and is feted as the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s father.

“His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” said a KCNA report released on Wednesday.

“Sitting on the horseback atop Mt Paektu, [he] recollected with deep emotion the road of arduous struggle he covered for the great cause of building the most powerful country, with faith and will as firm as Mt Paektu.”

In 2017, he visited the mountain a few weeks before his new year’s address, where he hinted at a diplomatic thaw with South Korea.

Nothing evokes an image of power quite like a leader astride a white steed, taming the first snows of winter while galloping through one of the Korean peninsula’s most sacred places.

This may be an attempt to project the strength and authority of the “Paektu bloodline” – the Kim family line. A not-so-subtle reminder for the North Koreans of their leader’s power, as well as his prowess on a horse.

But there are a few quotes in the soaring state media prose that should give us pause for thought.

The last line in particular is striking. We are told that the officials with Mr Kim were convinced “there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder”.

Kim Jong-un’s previous visits to Mount Paektu have come ahead of major decisions.

There’s speculation that this time Kim could be rethinking his promise to refrain from testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. Talks with the US are currently at a stalemate and Donald Trump is a little distracted by other domestic and foreign affairs.

The North Korean leader may be using the brisk mountain air to consider ways of attracting the attention of the Trump administration.

Pyongyang has given the US until the end of this year to come up with a denuclearisation deal. Kim has repeatedly called for sanctions relief upfront before making any moves to dismantle his nuclear programme, but he has so far failed to convince Washington.

Perhaps he feels it’s time to turn up the pressure with a few more launches?

Or just maybe the North Korean leader just fancied enjoying the first snow of the winter?

I have a feeling we will find out which one it may be within the coming months.

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