According to official media, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emphasized that his nation would never give up the nuclear weapons it needs to stand up to the United States, which he accused of trying to undermine the North’s defenses and ultimately topple his regime.
Kim made the remarks during an address on Thursday at North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, when lawmakers approved a law controlling the use of nuclear weapons. Kim hailed the measure as a move to solidify the nation’s nuclear status and make it clear that such weapons would not be bartered.
The law requires North Korea’s military to “automatically” carry out nuclear strikes against enemy forces, including their “starting point of provocation and the command,” if Pyongyang’s leadership is attacked. The law specifies circumstances under which North would be inclined to use its nuclear weapons, including when it determines that its leadership is facing an impending “nuclear or non-nuclear attack by hostile forces.”
According to analysts, the law’s ambiguous description of a “catastrophic situation” that North Korea may use nuclear weapons to avert for its government and people reflects an escalating nuclear doctrine that could raise worries for neighbors.
In order to confront the North’s escalating threats, Kim also blasted South Korea for its intentions to strengthen its conventional attack capabilities and resume extensive military drills with the US. He called these preparations “dangerous” military actions that would worsen the situation.
In addition to warning that the North would use its nuclear weapons proactively if challenged, Kim has made more inflammatory threats of nuclear confrontation against the United States and its allies in Asia. His most recent remarks highlighted the escalating hostility in the area as he quickens the development of his nuclear and missile programs.
In a speech made public by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, Kim said that the United States was trying to undermine North Korea’s right to self-defense by compelling it to give up its nuclear weapons. This would allow the United States to topple North Korea’s leadership at any moment.
Let them punish us for a hundred days, a thousand days, ten years, or a hundred years, Kim replied. In order to momentarily relieve the hardships we are now facing, we will never give up our rights to self-defense that protects our nation’s existence and the safety of our people.
Kim spoke on internal matters as well, announcing that North Korea will start its long-delayed COVID-19 vaccine deployment in November. He made no mention of how many doses there would be, where they would come from, or how they would be distributed among his 26 million inhabitants.
The organization GAVI, which oversees the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution program, said in June that it believed North Korea had accepted a Chinese offer of vaccinations. The offer’s terms, according to GAVI at the time, were not apparent.
North Korea has refused prior COVAX proposals, perhaps because to requirements for international surveillance, and has also turned down offers of vaccinations and other COVID-19 assistance from the United States and South Korea.
Just three months after his administration for the first time recognized an epidemic, Kim last month claimed victory against COVID-19 and ordered the relaxation of preventative measures. According to experts, the North’s admissions about the pandemic are managed to support Kim’s hegemonic rule.
The North Korean report on Kim’s address comes a day after South Korea made its most recent peace offer, suggesting a meeting to restart temporary reunions of elderly relatives split up by the 1950–53 Korean War, which were last held in 2018.
According to experts, it is very improbable that North Korea would accept the South’s offer given the severe deterioration in relations between the two Koreas and the impasse in more extensive nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. Negotiations between the United States and North Korea to exchange the lifting of punishing sanctions imposed on the North and the North’s measures toward disarmament fell apart in 2019.
In his address on Thursday, Kim took a confrontational tone toward South Korea and encouraged that nation to increase the operating capabilities of its tactical nuclear weapons and speed up their deployment to fortify the nation’s war deterrent. These remarks seemed to support a governing party decision made in June to authorize vague new operational responsibilities for front-line soldiers, which experts believe probably involve plans to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons against rival South Korea along their tense border.
Kim’s remarks and the new North Korean legislation, according to Cheong Seong Chang, a senior expert at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, amount to a warning that Pyongyang would launch rapid nuclear attacks on the US and South Korea if they ever tried to topple Pyongyang’s government.
The possibility of unintentional skirmishes turning into a nuclear crisis would increase if the North continued to signal its threat to deploy its nuclear weapons in battle against South Korea’s conventional troops, according to Cheong.
Since 2019, North Korea has accelerated the development of short-range, nuclear-capable missiles that can strike South Korea. According to experts, the language surrounding those missiles signals a threat to deploy them in combat before of time to counter South Korea’s and the United States’ greater conventional forces. To prevent North American aggression, there are around 28,500 American soldiers stationed in the South.
The U.S.-China rivalry is becoming worse, and Russia’s assault on Ukraine has widened the U.N. rift, complicating the diplomatic effort headed by the United States to end the nuclear stalemate. Beijing and Moscow have thwarted American attempts to impose more stringent penalties on Pyongyang in response to its resumed long-range missile launches this year at the UN Security Council.
In 2020, Kim has conducted a record number of weapons tests, firing over 30 ballistic weapons, including the first public displays of his intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.
Kim is pushing the boundaries of diplomacy in an effort to persuade Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and negotiate concessions from a position of strength, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. Soon, Kim may up the ante by ordering the North to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.
According to experts, Kim is also attempting to increase his power by enhancing his collaboration with China and Russia in a new alliance intended to challenge American dominance.
Asserting that the West’s “hegemonic strategy” justified Russian military operations in Ukraine to defend itself, North Korea has frequently accused the United States of being to fault for the conflict in Ukraine. Russian authorities are reportedly buying artillery rounds and missiles from North Korea, according to U.S. sources, in order to alleviate supply shortages in their conflict with Ukraine.
Additionally, North Korea has considered sending its construction workers to those areas to assist with reconstruction, joining Russia and Syria as the only other countries to recognize the independence of two pro-Russian breakaway entities in eastern Ukraine.