UPDATE : 2019.5.27 MON 10:22
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N.K. leader visits late father's birthplace before possible announcement on nuclear talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a northern county known to be the birthplace of his late father, state media reported on Apr. 4, 2019, amid speculation that he could soon announce his next steps after the breakdown of his February summit with U.S. 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.

This photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency on April 4, 2019, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting Samjiyon County in the central northern part of the country. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)

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.

"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.

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 U.S.

Since taking office in late 2011, Kim has called for efforts to develop the county where his late father was born. Kim earlier announced a plan to complete its development project by 2020, the 75th anniversary of the ruling party's establishment. (Yonhap)

Shin Jin-seon  edt@koreapost.com

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