'Defiant message' as North Korea's Kim rides white horse on sacred mountain

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding alone on a large white horse through snowy fields and woods on Mt Paektu the spiritual homeland of the Kim dynasty

"Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mt Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution", KCNA added.

"The report in Korean has characterised Kim's climb up to Mount Paektu on horseback as a new "myth", and that, together with the images of him on a white horse, appear to have been designed to create maximum propaganda effect, which I believe media will play up in the days to come", Ms Lee said.

Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in an image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. North Korea also claims Kim Jong Un's father, Kim Jung Il, was born on the mountain.

"The situation of the country is hard owing to the ceaseless sanctions and pressure by the hostile forces inflicted upon the Korean people", Kim said, adding that the country will continue to progress despite the sanctions. Near the mountain, Kim reportedly vowed to overcome US -led sanctions that he said had both pained and infuriated his people.

KCNA said Mr Kim also visited nearby construction sites in Samjiyon County and complained about US-led United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea because of its nuclear and missile programs.

"But our people grew stronger through the trials and found their own way of development and learned how to always win in the face of trials."
The mountain is regarded as sacred by North Koreans.

"For people outside North Korea, Kim is showing that he won't give into the sanctions pressure to make concessions in negotiations with Washington".

Some analysts believe that the most recent expedition to Mount Paektu signals North Korea's renewed intentions to stand up to worldwide sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The latest visits came after the North's working-level nuclear talks with the United States broke down in Stockholm earlier this month, with Pyongyang accusing Washington of failing to come up with a new proposal.

The sanctions have been toughened since 2016 when Mr Kim began conducting a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests, and they include a full ban on key exports such as coal, textiles and seafood and a significant curtailing of oil imports.

His last visit to Samjiyon was in April this year following the break-down of denuclearization talks held between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi. After the talks, North Korea criticized the USA for sticking to its conventional stance.

In December 2017, Kim hiked to the peak before launching diplomatic overtures that led to his first-ever summit with President Trump.

In April this year, Kim Jong Un has said he will wait only until the end of 2019 for the U.S. to soften its stance in denuclearisation negotiations before North Korea pursues an unspecified new path forward. North Korea tested this month what it said was a submarine-launched ballistic missile that marked a "new phase" in its capabilities - the most provocative in a series of weapons tests it carried out since 2018.

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