This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
North Korea’s military has designated the end of June and most of July as “Anti-U.S. Joint Struggle Month” as a means to foment greater hostility toward the U.S. in retaliation for the Biden administration’s lack of interest in negotiating with Pyongyang, military sources told RFA.
There were two summits between the two countries during Donald Trump’s presidency: 2018 in Singapore and 2019 in Hanoi. But ultimately the U.S. and North Korea were unable to work out a deal on sanctions relief in exchange for denuclearization. The shift in policy of the new administration makes a return to negotiations less likely, so North Korea is bringing back a more hostile style of rhetoric toward the U.S.
The month-long education project started on June 25, the anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, and will last until July 27, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities in the conflict.
Over the course of the month, military personnel must learn why the U.S. is North Korea’s main enemy, a military related source in the northwestern province of North Pyongan told RFA on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“The General Political Bureau of the People’s Army… created new anti-U.S. education materials that say the U.S. is our main enemy and sent it down to all the subordinate units. From the 25th, all units… have been attending anti-U.S. classes during their mental education hours, which are held each day for about an hour,” the source said.
“Previous materials made since the time of the 2018 North Korea-U.S. [Singapore] Summit have used the [softer] term ‘imperialism’ to describe the U.S, in order to not provoke them,” said the source.
The new materials have been changed to use harsher language.
“They now call the U.S. an ‘imperialist aggressor.’ The content is intended to strengthen anti-U.S. sentiment and says things like, ‘The aggressive nature of the United States never changes. They are our enemy who must not live under the same sky with us,’” said the source.
“The General Political Bureau has also instructed the political departments of each unit to visit their respective education center during Anti-U.S. Joint Struggle month. The political department should organize officers and soldiers to attend classes there, and they must also punish those who neglect to visit with their units. So the military officials are nervous,” the source said.
Every province, city and county in North Korea has set up education centers that collect and display anti-U.S., anti-South Korean and anti-Japanese materials, according to the source.
“Since 2018, when we were trying to improve relations with the U.S., anti-U.S. education for military personnel was suspended, but this time, we will bring it back in time for the anniversary of the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War,” the source said, using the North Korean term for the day the armistice was signed.
The source said the soldiers are not happy with the government’s flip-flopping on whether the U.S. is the number one enemy or not.
“They say, ‘They removed the hostile phrases to improve relations with the U.S., and now they are bringing them back. We don’t know how to play along.’”
The new materials say that peaceful coexistence with the U.S. is not possible, a military source in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.
“It says that coexistence is just an illusion and equivalent to death, and we must be armed with a high sense of antagonism and ideological determination to fight against the U.S.,” the second source said.
“But the officers and soldiers come out of their mental education classes expressionless and with indifference,” said the second source.
“The General Political Bureau is also telling all units to post up new propaganda signs bearing the slogan, ‘Destroy all U.S. imperialist aggressors, the absolute enemies of the Korean people’ in their barracks. By posting anti-U.S. slogans, which previously we only attached to combat equipment, they will more intently concentrate on hostility toward the United States.”
The sources both said that they interpreted the renewed hostility toward the U.S. as the government expressing its dissatisfaction with a shift in Washington’s stance on North Korea to a more hardline position since the beginning of the Biden administration.
Though fighting in the Korean War ended with the signing of the armistice on July 27, 1953, North and South Korea are still technically at war.