Photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) on a horse as he visits battle sites at Mount Paektu, Ryanggang. Photo: AFP

Official North Korean media on Wednesday released images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un riding a white horse visiting revolutionary battle sites on the country’s sacred Mount Paektu, the second such trip in less than two months. 

Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in Shenyang, told the Global Times Wednesday the visit could be seen as a move to unite the North Korean people, promote revolutionary tradition to boost morale and cement Kim’s leadership. 

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday that the presidium of the political bureau of the central committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) decided to convene a fifth plenary meeting of the seventh central committee of the WPK in late December, “to discuss and decide on crucial issues in line with the needs of the development of the Korean revolution and the changed situation at home and abroad.”

Wang Junsheng, a research fellow of East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of So­cial Sciences in Beijing, said it was rare for North Korea to hold such a party plenum twice within a year, “which signals North Korea’s anxiety caused by its economic difficul­ties.”

Wang pointed out that the UN Security Council resolutions which require the repatriation of all overseas North Korean workers by December 22 add to the predicament. Those overseas workers are the main source of foreign revenue, Wang said.

Both Chinese experts admitted they had no idea what Pyongyang would do to address the economic difficulties created by sanctions. But they agreed new nuclear and missile tests are unlikely to be North Korea’s “new path,” as that would reverse the progress made over the past year. Such a move would also invite more pressure from the international community and so flies against the country’s urgent need to develop its economy. 

The KCNA coverage of Kim’s visit to the highest peak of the Korean Peninsula came after Ri Thae-song, vice minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK in charge of the US Affairs, released a statement on Tuesday reminding the US once again of the year-end time limit the Asian country set for the US to move nearer. 

North Korea has “done everything transparently and openly so far. It feels no need to hide what it will do from now on,” read the statement. “What is left to be done now is the US option and it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get.” 

Lü believed that Pyongyang would seek to pressure the US side to gain the upper hand in its dialogue by testing more conventional weapons, but not to the level of a military provocation.