North Korea has passed an “irreversible” law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state.
On Friday, North Korean state media reported the passing of new legislation permitting the preemptive launching of nuclear weapons when the leadership is threatened. The new law updated the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) previous stance of maintaining their nuclear weapons until other countries also denuclearized and not using them preemptively against non-nuclear powers.
In the official report released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the nuclear forces were described as a “powerful means of defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and fundamental interests of the state.”
The missions of these forces are to “deter a war by making hostile forces have a clear understanding the fact that the military confrontation with the DPRK brings about ruin” and to “carry out an operational mission for repulsing hostile forces’ aggression and attack and achieving decisive victory of war in case its deterrence fails.”
The legislation further establishes the constitution, conditions, execution and maintenance of the state’s nuclear weapons, including statements of “qualitative and quantitative” nuclear improvement.
Passed by the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), this new legislation replaces the previous 2013 legislation, which “[consolidates] the position of nuclear weapons state for self-defense.”
In his speech at the Thursday SPA meeting, North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un emphasized his will to maintain the weapons and accused the U.S. of attempting to weaken the country. “There will never be any declaration of ‘giving up our nukes’ or ‘denuclearization,’ nor any kind of negotiations […] As long as nuclear weapons exist on Earth and imperialism remains … our road towards strengthening nuclear power won’t stop,” he said.
North Korea’s response came soon after the 2022 Seoul Defense Dialogue and a Tokyo trilateral meeting between the United States, South Korea and Japan. During the Seoul Defense Dialogue, natural security experts from 54 countries gathered to clarify international cooperation towards the denuclearization of North Korea. The dialogue was preceded by Wednesday’s trilateral meeting, which aimed to “stengthen security ties between the nations amid fears of potential nuclear tests.”
North Korea began their first nuclear tests in 2006, drawing international attention. During their most recent nuclear bomb test in 2017, the Punggye-ri test site had a “yield” of 100-370 kilotons, making it “six times more powerful than the one the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima,” BBC reported.
In 2019, despite Kim meeting with then-U.S. President Donald Trump regarding sanctions and disarmament, talks broke down over disagreements. Since then, officials in South Korea and the U.S. have been preparing for Pyongyang to resume nuclear testing since 2017.