North Korea has recently passed a law enshrining the right to ‘automatically’ use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself. According to North Korea’s state media, leader Kim Jong Un has said this new law makes the country’s nuclear status ‘irreversible’ and bars any talks of denuclearisation.
North Korea’s parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, passed the legislation last Thursday, replacing a 2013 law that had first outlined the country’s nuclear status, state news agency KCNA said.
The KCNA quoted Kim as addressing the assembly: “The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons.”
Kim said he would never surrender nuclear weapons even if the country faced 100 years of sanctions, according to the Reuters report.
Why has North Korea taken this step?
This move comes as Pyongyang is seemingly preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, according to the Reuters report, after summits with former US President Donald Trump and other diplomatic meetings failed to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons development.
What is the new law?
North Korea’s new law is important because, very simply, it authorises preemptive nuclear strikes. That means this law could be implemented if Pyongyang thinks there is an impending nuclear attack or if Pyongyang believes that its state’s existence faced threats or the command organisation of its nuclear forces were threatened.
According to a Reuters report, the last point may be a “reference to South Korea’s ‘Kill Chain’ strategy, which calls for preemptively striking North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure and command system if an imminent attack is suspected.”
The report states that under the provisions of this new law, Kim has “all decisive powers” over nuclear weapons, but in case that command-and-control system were to be threatened, then nuclear weapons may be launched “automatically”.
The law also bans the sharing of nuclear arms or technology with other countries, and is aimed at reducing the danger of a nuclear war by preventing miscalculations among nuclear weapons states and misuse of nuclear weapons, Reuters quoted KCNA saying.
How have others responded?
Over the past few months, North Korea’s rhetoric has been increasingly critical of the US and its allies. In the past year, Pyongyang has carried out more than 30 long-range missile tests, involving ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles.
Reuters reported Russia’s Foreign Ministry as saying it was “closely monitoring” military activity on the Korean peninsula. While not addressing the new law, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s position on the Korean peninsula “had not changed”, which is denuclearisation of North Korea.