North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to overcome US-led sanctions which have inflicted “many hardships and trials” on his country.
Mr Kim added that pain felt by North Koreans has turned into anger after the United States punished Pyongyang for continuing its nuclear weapons program.
State media on Wednesday showed Mr Kim riding a white horse to climb Mount Paektu, while the Korean Central News Agency said he also visited nearby construction sites and complained about sanctions imposed on his country because of its nuclear weapons program.
South Korean media speculated Mr Kim may be considering a new strategy in his dealings with the US because he has previously demanded Washington come up with new proposals to salvage the diplomatic stalemate by the end of December.
“He, sitting on the horseback atop Mount Paektu, 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,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
North Korean documents say Mr Kim’s grandfather and national founder Kim Il Sung had an anti-Japan guerrilla base on the slopes of Paektu during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The official biography of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, said the second-generation leader was born on Paektu when a double rainbow filled the skies.
The white horse is also a propaganda symbol for the Kim family who has ruled North Korea for seven decades with a strong personality cult surrounding family members.
State media have occasionally shown Mr Kim, his sister and his father riding white horses. The symbolism goes back to Kim Il Sung who, according to the North’s official narrative, rode a white horse while fighting against Japanese colonial rulers.
“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,” Mr Kim was quoted as saying.
“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.”
North Korea has been hit with 11 rounds of sanctions since 2006.
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.
During his second summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February, Mr Kim demanded the United States lift the newer and more biting sanctions in return for dismantling his main nuclear complex, a limited denuclearisation step.
Mr Trump rejected that, and the summit collapsed without reaching any deal. The two leaders held a brief, impromptu meeting at the Korean border in late June and agreed to resume talks.
Their nuclear negotiators met in Stockholm for the first time since the Vietnam summit earlier this month but the talks broke down again.
North Korea blamed the US for the talks’ breakdown and threatened to resume nuclear and long-range missile tests.