SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged an “uncompromising fight” against anti-socialist elements in his country, state media reported on Thursday as he tries to strengthen his power amid the challenges of the pandemic and led by the United States. economic sanctions.
Comments from Kim, the third family member to rule the impoverished nuclear-weapon country, come as doubts rise both about the North Korean economy and whether it will engage in serious disarmament talks with Washington. There are also fears that the North will continue to build an enhanced atomic arsenal that directly threatens the United States.
The Biden administration, which took over after dramatic but ultimately unsuccessful direct diplomacy between Kim and former President Donald Trump, called its recent review of North Korea’s policy “calibrated and practical.”
But some experts say Washington will not ease sanctions – a step North Korea is keen on – until the North takes the denuclearization measures. This can become increasingly unlikely as Kim is seen by many outside analysts as seeing his weapons as his government’s only guarantee of survival.
In a letter to attendees at a meeting of labor organizations this week, Kim said that “the fight against anti-socialist and non-socialist practices is a do or die battle to defend the purity of the working class and the lifeline of our style of socialism, ”the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
“Anti-socialist and non-socialist practices” likely refer to citizens who pursue capitalism, perceived selfishness, and other things Kim sees as going against socialism and collectivism and posing a threat to rule. from his family.
KCNA quoted Kim as saying that it is important to “wage (a) uncompromising struggle against (anti-socialist and non-socialist practices) and resolutely crush them.”
Kim also ordered the participants to “firmly hold the principle of producing all that is necessary for economic construction and people’s lives with our own raw materials and the like.”
Kim, who took power at the end of 2011, said his country faces the “worst situation ever” due to the sharp reduction in trade caused by border closures caused by coronaviruses, US sanctions and natural disasters last summer. He called for stronger unity at home and urged the United States to drop hostility against North Korea, an apparent reference to sanctions. He has warned he will expand his nuclear arsenal if US hostility persists.
In March, Kim ordered his country’s first short-range ballistic missile tests in a year. But it still maintains a moratorium on long-range missiles and nuclear testing, which would pose a direct threat to the American homeland, as the government of President Joe Biden develops a new American policy on North Korea.
At a summit between Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week, the two leaders said in a joint statement that the Biden administration’s North Korean policy review “takes a calibrated approach. and practice that is open and will explore diplomacy ”with North Korea. The two also underlined their common commitment to “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”.
Biden announced the appointment of a new special envoy for North Korean affairs and Moon expressed hope that North Korea would respond positively.
U.S. officials have suggested Biden would seek common ground between Trump’s direct meetings with Kim and former President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” to deal with Kim’s advancing nuclear program. Moon said Biden will take gradual and step-by-step action.
But details of Biden’s policy in North Korea have not been publicly disclosed and it is not clear whether his administration has contacted North Korea to explain the policy. North Korea, for its part, has remained silent on the Biden-Moon summit and the US policy review.
“Since Kim is unlikely to get sanctions relief this year, he would consider strengthening his internal oversight more important as he would think his grip on power might be shaken at a time when he is facing other national difficulties, ”said Nam Sung-Wook, a professor at Korea University and chairman of the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea’s leading spy agency.
Since the North Korean nuclear crisis first erupted in the early 1990s, the United States and other regional powers have used diplomacy, sanctions and pressure to try to curb their nuclear ambitions. Nothing worked and, according to South Korean estimates in 2018, North Korea could have up to 60 nuclear weapons.
In 2018-19, Kim’s summits with Trump finally collapsed after Trump rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for partial steps towards denuclearization.
Nam said it would be “natural” for North Korea to push to build more nuclear weapons and fissile material if a deadlock in nuclear diplomacy continues. He said Kim could launch a provocative missile test to get US attention sometime in August, when the US and South Korean military conduct major annual exercises.
“North Korea will opt for talks if it determines that it can no longer endure further economic hardship,” said Park Won Gon, professor of North Korea studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “North Korea has held up very well so far, as no serious (internal) issues have been reported, even though it has been more than a year since it closed its borders. … But I think they can only last until the end of this year.