Kim Jong-un’s visit to historic site could be prelude to major nuclear decision

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North Korean state-run media reported that leader Kim Jong-un made a “sightseeing” visit to Mout Paektu, an active volcano near the border with China, with the visit prompting speculation he could be mulling a major decision tied to his country’s nuclear weapons development.

Mount Paektu is the legendary origin of the Korean nation, which the regime has used to legitimize the Kim family’s rule.

North’s state-run media KCNA reported in English the hike had prompted Kim to recall “emotion-charged days when he realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force without yielding even a moment.”

South Korean observers believe the trek may signal a major decision, as Kim made it before deciding to execute his uncle Jang Sung Taek.

“It’s unlikely that Kim went up the so-called sacred mountain for fresh air. He is likely to have considered how he will formulate external policies after having declared the regime a nuclear state,” a Seoul-based source told Dong-A Ilbo.

Others have speculated that Kim may decide to reopen talks with the United States, instead.

“Resorting to further provocations could be difficult for North Korea since further nuclear tests at the Punggyeri site have become impossible due to safety concerns and there is growing talk in the U.S. Congress of a pre-emptive strike,” a former diplomat told Chosun Ilbo. [source]

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