Kim Jong Un is back in the saddle!
The North Korean leader, who in the past has displayed a penchant for elaborate propaganda photo shoots, channeled his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin this week after newly released images showed him riding horseback on a sacred mountain where it was said he was inspired to plan “a great operation” to overcome U.S.-led sanctions, local media reported.
The undated images released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday showed Kim, dressed in a long winter coat, riding a white horse on snow-covered Mount Paektu, the highest point on the Korean peninsula.
The mountain itself is a sacred place for the North Korean people, but the white horse also represents a propaganda symbol for the Kim dynasty.
"He, sitting on the horseback atop Mt 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," KCNA reported Wednesday.
The government-run agency also said that during a visit later that day in Samjiyon County, Kim lamented the U.S.-led U.N. sanctions that were imposed after nuclear talks broke down.
"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 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."
KCNA also reported that the visit to Mount Paektu inspired the 35-year-old leader to plan “a great operation” in response to the tough sanctions.
“Having witnessed the great moments of his thinking atop Mt Paektu, all the officials accompanying him were convinced with overflowing emotion and joy that there will be a great operation to strike the world with wonder again and make a step forward in the Korean revolution.”
U.S. diplomats met with North Korean officials in Stockholm over the weekend, days after Pyongyang test-fired an underwater-launched missile. While North Korea argued that talks between the two shut down, the State Department said the “U.S. brought creative ideas and had good discussions.”
The State Department said that U.S. representatives have agreed to resume talks in two weeks but it was not clear if it involved a mutual agreement with North Korean negotiators.
Kim previously visited the location before executing his powerful uncle in 2013 and entering into diplomacy with South Korea and the U.S. in 2018.
Wednesday’s images were eerily similar to those of Putin, who was pictured shirtless riding a horse in Siberia’s southern Tuva region in 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.