North Korea's Kim signals more confrontational stance with new horse
Kim Jong Un mounted a white horse again as North Korea announced on Wednesday it will soon convene a rare meeting of the ruling party's leaders, steps analysts say may signal preparations for a more confrontational stance with the international community.
For the second time in two months, Kim visited North Korea's sacred Mt Paektu on horseback, this time accompanied by senior military officers, aimed at instilling a "revolutionary spirit" in the people, state news agency KCNA reported.
Kim has warned the United States it has until the end of the year to offer more concessions to restart stalled denuclearisation talks or North Korea will pursue an unspecified "new path". Analysts believe that may include a resumption of intercontinental ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests. The United States has called for North Korea to give up significant portions of its nuclear arsenal before punishing international sanctions are eased, while Pyongyang has accused the United States of "gangster-like" demands for unilateral disarmament.
Sacred mountain suggests major developments
Kim has often visited the sacred mountain around the time of major developments in North Korea, including missile launches, and his horseback visit in October sparked speculation of a change in North Korea's nuclear negotiation strategy. State media photos on Wednesday showed the saddle and harness on Kim's horse adorned with more intricate gold-coloured fittings and government emblems.
'Indefatigable revolutionary spirit'
The ride was aimed at instilling in North Koreans the mountain's "indefatigable revolutionary spirit" in the face of "unprecedented blockade and pressure imposed by the imperialists," KCNA reported. Kim said there was a need to prepare for "the harshness and protracted character of our revolution," according to KCNA.
Window for diplomacy closing fast
While Kim's plans are still unclear, the signals suggest the window for diplomacy is closing fast, if not already shut, said John Delury of Seoul's Yonsei University. "The message is buckle up, it’s going to be a big year for us next year," he said. "And not a year of diplomacy and summitry, but rather of national strength."
Sign of Kim's commitment
The ride is full of symbolism for North Koreans and sending strident messages to domestic audiences more fully commits Kim to following through on his declarations, Delury said.
'More militaristic line'
Lee noted the fact Kim was accompanied by senior army officers rather than party officials, combined with other recent military-related announcements by state media, suggests North Korea "will likely transition to a more militaristic line".