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(LEAD) N. Korean leader rides horse to Mount Paekdu, slams U.S. sanctions

All Headlines 09:35 October 16, 2019

(ATTN: DELETES repeated quote in 2nd to last para)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un rode a white horse to visit Mount Paekdu, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula considered the birthplace of his late father, slamming U.S. sanctions and calling for greater "self-reliance" efforts to frustrate them, state media reported Wednesday.

Kim has visited the mountain, considered one of the peninsula's most sacred places, ahead of big political or diplomatic decisions and events, and the latest trip has spawned speculation about whether another big decision might be forthcoming.

The leader "climbed up Mount Paekdu, riding a white horse through the first snow," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, releasing a series of photos of him riding a horse running up the snow-covered mountain.

Kim also visited a special tourist zone under construction in Samjiyon County at the foot of the mountain, and lashed out at the United States for sanctions and pressure against the communist nation.

"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 said, according to KCNA. "The pain the U.S.-led anti-DPRK hostile forces inflicted upon the Korean people is no longer pain, but it turned into their anger."

DPRK is the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Whenever the enemies try to strangle us with the chain of pressure," Kim said, the country should make greater efforts to "live well under the banner of the great spirit of self-reliance so that the enemies feel a pain in their stomach and head."

This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 16, 2019, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un riding a white horse up a snow-covered Mount Paektu, the country's highest peak on the border with China, after inspecting construction sites at the foot of the mountain. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Senior North Korean officials, including Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong, accompanied the leader on his Samjiyon trip, KCNA said. It did not give details on who accompanied the leader when he scaled Mount Paekdu.

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.

It was the two sides' first meeting since Kim's second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed without a deal in Hanoi in February.

Kim's previous Mount Paekdu visit was in December 2017 before the inter-Korean reconciliatory mood began in 2018. He also visited the mountain in November 2014 just after the three-year mourning period for his late father, as well as in February 2013 before the execution of his once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smiles during an inspection of construction sites in Samjiyon County near the country's tallest mountain of Paektu in this photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 16, 2019. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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