North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a northern county known to be the birthplace of his late father, state media reported Thursday, amid speculation that he could soon announce his next steps after the breakdown of his February summit with US President Donald Trump.
Kim inspected Samjiyon County of Ryanggang Province bordering China, according to the Korean Central News Agency. North Korea claims that Samjiyon, near Mount Paekdu, the sacred highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, is the birthplace of Kim Jong-il.
“Supreme Leader of the Party, state and army Kim Jong-un walked round the township of Samjiyon County under construction to learn about how the construction is now underway,” the KCNA said.
“He underlined the need to accurately set the monthly targets for each process and wage a dynamic struggle for completing the second-stage construction projects as planned without fail by inspiring all the builders, calling for responsible direction and supervision of the construction,” it added.
Kim has visited Samjiyon ahead of major announcements or decisions.
A visit in November 2013 came about a month before the execution of his once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek. Kim traveled there late in 2014, months before he expressed his intent to hold an inter-Korean summit in his New Year’s speech.
Last July, Kim toured the area after his first summit with Trump and visited it again in August ahead of his planned third summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
An official of South Korea’s unification ministry said the trip is meaningful as it represents Kim’s first visit to an economic site this year. Since taking office in late 2011, Kim has called for efforts to develop Samjiyon. Kim earlier announced a plan to complete its development project by 2020, the 75th anniversary of the ruling party’s establishment.
The latest visit, which marked the first in six months since he traveled there last October, came about a week before the North is to hold the first session of the Supreme People’s Assembly on April 11 since its new deputies were elected to the rubber-stamp legislature.
Kim is highly expected to announce his stance there on domestic and foreign policies, providing a glimpse into what Pyongyang’s next steps will be after his summit with Trump in February in Hanoi ended without a deal as they failed to find common ground on the scope of Pyongyang’s denuclearization steps and Washington’s sanctions relief.
Last month, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui warned that the North could end denuclearization talks with the U.S., saying that it would not give in to Washington’s unilateral “gangster-like” demands. She also said that Kim would soon announce whether he will continue nuclear talks with the US.
“The SPA has authority to revise the constitution, select people for state agencies and decide on the party’s basic principles of domestic and foreign issues,” the unification ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“We need to keep an eye on what will come out of the meeting for more,” he said. (Yonhap)