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In Pyongyang, meanwhile, Premier Choe Yong Rim and other old guard figures who are Kim’s inner circle led a rally in support of the leader and the country’s goals for the new year.

“We once again keep deep in our minds that the victory of building a powerful and prosperous nation is certain, as long as there is the … wise leadership of respected Comrade Kim Jong Un,” senior Workers’ Party official Mun Gyong Dok told the crowd at Kim Il Sung Square, according to Associated Press Television News.

Beating drums and carrying huge North Korean flags, they paraded across the square in central Pyongyang as snow fell, pumping their right fists as they chanted. Some held huge placards calling for loyalty to Kim and supporting efforts to improve the economy.

About 100,000 North Koreans attended the rally, officials said.

Associated Press writers Jean H. Lee, Sam Kim and Foster Klug contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.