Kim Jong Un Warns That North Korea is in a 'Do-or-Die Battle' Against 'Anti-Socialists'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to fight an "uncompromising struggle" against anti-socialism amid economic sanctions from the United States, state media reported Thursday.

In a letter to participants at a meeting of labor organizations this week, Kim said: "The struggle against the anti-socialist and non-socialist practices is a do-or-die battle to defend the working-class purity and lifeline of our style of socialism," the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Kim also ordered participants to "firmly maintain the principle of producing everything needed for economic construction and people's living with our own raw and other materials."

U.S. officials have said President Joe Biden's strategy in North Korea will be a middle-ground approach between former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama. The Biden administration described its recent North Korea policy review as "calibrated and practical." However, Biden has not publicly released his plan for North Korean sanctions or denuclearization, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kim Jong-Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ), on June 30, 2019. State media said Kim vowed to wage an "uncompromising struggle" against anti-socialist elements in North Korea. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Kim, who took power in late 2011, has said his country faces "the worst-ever" situation because of sharply reduced trade caused by coronavirus-caused border closings, the U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters last summer. He has called for stronger unity at home and urged the United States to abandon hostility against North Korea, an apparent reference to the sanctions. He warned he would enlarge his nuclear arsenal if U.S. hostility persists.

In March, Kim ordered his country's first short-range ballistic missile tests in a year. But he still maintains a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests, which would pose a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, as Biden's government shapes a new U.S. policy on North Korea.

During 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 Korea policy review "takes a calibrated and practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy" with North Korea. The two also emphasized their shared commitment to "the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Biden announced the appointment of a new special envoy on North Korea affairs, and Moon expressed his hopes that North Korea would respond positively.

But it's unclear if the Biden administration has contacted North Korea to explain the policy. North Korea, for its part, has remained silent about the Biden-Moon summit and the U.S. policy review.

"As there is little chance for Kim to get sanctions relief within this year, he would view boosting his internal control as more important because he would think his grip on power might be shaken at a time when he's facing other domestic difficulties," said Nam Sung-Wook, a professor at Korea University who served as president of the Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea's main spy agency.

Since the North Korean nuclear crisis first flared in the early 1990s, the United States and other regional powers have used diplomacy, sanctions and pressure to try to curb its nuclear ambitions. Nothing has worked, and, according to South Korean estimates in 2018, North Korea might have up to 60 nuclear weapons.

In 2018-2019, Kim's summits with Trump ultimately collapsed after Trump rebuffed the North's demand for major sanctions relief in return for partial steps toward denuclearization.

Nam said it would be "natural" for North Korea to push to build more nuclear weapons and fissile material if a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy is prolonged. He said Kim may launch a provocative missile test to draw U.S. attention around August, when the U.S. and South Korean militaries conduct annual major drills.

"North Korea will opt for talks if it determines it cannot endure further" economic difficulties, said Park Won Gon, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul's Ewha Woman's University. "North Korea has so far endured very well, as no serious (internal) problem has been reported, though it's been more than a year since it closed its borders....But I think they can only endure until the end of this year."

Biden and North Korea
In this March 26, 2021, file photo, commuters watch a TV showing file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Joe Biden during a news program at the Suseo Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. State media said Kim vowed to launch an “uncompromising struggle” against anti-socialist elements and build a perfect self-supporting economy. Kim's comments released on May 27, 2021, come as he seeks greater internal strength to overcome pandemic-related difficulties and U.S.-led sanctions. Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo