KCNA photo of North Korean Hwasong-15 ballistic missiles during a military parade in Pyongyang
Seoul (AFP) – North Korea has passed a law allowing it to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike and declaring its “irreversible” status as a nuclear-armed country, state media in Pyongyang said Friday.
The announcement comes at a time of deteriorating relations between the North and the South, with Pyongyang blaming Seoul for the outbreak of Covid-19 in its territory and conducting a record number of weapons tests this year.
The official Korean Central News Agency said the law would allow North Korea to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike “automatically” and “immediately to destroy hostile forces” when a foreign country poses an imminent threat to Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in July that his country was “ready to mobilize” its nuclear capability in any war with the United States and the South.
With the new law enacted, leader Kim Jong Un said, according to the Korean Central News Agency, “our country’s status as a nuclear weapons state has become irreversible.”
Kim said in July that his country was “ready to mobilize” its nuclear capability in any war with the United States and the South.
He reiterated that Pyongyang would never give up the nuclear weapons it needed to counter hostilities from Washington, claiming that the United States sought the “collapse” of his regime at any time.
Nuclear talks and diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang have been derailed since 2019 due to sanctions relief and what Pyongyang may be willing to give up in return.
“There is absolutely no such thing as denuclearization first, there is no denuclearization and no negotiations,” the North Korean leader was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying.
Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute said the new law shows Kim’s confidence in his country’s nuclear and military competence, including its ICBMs capable of striking the United States.
Cheung told AFP that the law “publicly justifies Pyongyang’s use of its nuclear power” in the event of any military clash, including in response to non-nuclear attacks.
– ‘Tinker height’ –
North Korea’s series of weapons tests since January have included the launch of a full-range ICBM for the first time since 2017.
Officials in Washington and South Korea have repeatedly warned that North Korea is preparing to conduct what will be its seventh nuclear test.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said North Korea’s latest announcement clearly confirmed Pyongyang’s position – that nuclear negotiations are no longer on the table.
“It is likely that Pyongyang will establish closer relations with China and Russia against Washington, and … will launch its seventh nuclear test in the near future,” he told AFP.
Seoul, Washington’s main security ally, last month presented Pyongyang with a “bold” aid plan that includes food, energy and infrastructure in exchange for North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program.But Pyongyang mocked the offer, calling it “the height of absurdity” and an agreement the North would never accept.
South Korea’s hardline president, Yoon Seok-yeol, said last month that his administration had no plans to pursue the use of its nuclear deterrent.