December 11, 2017 10:40
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has climbed Mt. Baekdu, the mythical origin of the Korean nation and allegedly of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, according to state media on Saturday.
It said Kim recalled "the emotion-charged days when he realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force," after reaching the peak.
The portly leader has repeatedly climbed the mountain ahead of making momentous decisions.
Some North Korea watchers are guessing that the North is preparing a new tactic in the midst of increasing international sanctions amid rumors of a March deadline in resolving the nuclear standoff and of a possible pre-emptive U.S. military strike.
Regime founder Kim Il-sung was born near Pyongyang, but state propaganda has always claimed that he was born on the mountain to identify him with the mythical origin of the Korean race.
Kim Jong-un has visited Mt. Baekdu almost every year since coming to power. In 2013, Kim ordered the brutal execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek immediately after a trip there.
South Korean government officials expect Kim to shift to dialogue mode after announcing the "completion of the nuclear force."
Kim Yong-nam, the perennial president of the rubberstamp Supreme People's Assembly, told a delegation of Russian lawmakers recently that Pyongyang is ready for talks with the U.S. if Washington recognizes the North as a nuclear power.
One former South Korean diplomat said, "Resorting to further provocations could be difficult for North Korea since further nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site have become impossible due to safety concerns and there is growing talk in the U.S. Congress of a pre-emptive strike."
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