New North Korean law outlines use of nuclear weapons, including preemptive strikes

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A North Korean flag flies at the Gijungdong propaganda village in North Korea, in this photo taken near the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, 19 July 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool

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SEOUL, Sept 9 (Reuters) – North Korea has formally enshrined the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself in a new law that leader Kim Jong Un says makes its nuclear status “irreversible” and bans denuclearization talks, state media reported on Friday. .

The move comes as observers say North Korea appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, after historic summits with then-US President Donald Trump and other leaders. global markets in 2018 failed to persuade Kim to abandon his weapons development.

The northern parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, on Thursday passed the legislation to replace a 2013 law that first outlined the country’s nuclear status, according to the official KCNA news agency.

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“The greatest importance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irremediable line so that there can be no negotiation over our nuclear weapons,” Kim said in a speech to the assembly, adding that he would never surrender even if the country faced 100 years of sanctions.

Among the scenarios that could trigger a nuclear attack would be the threat of an imminent nuclear strike; if the leaders, the people or the existence of the country were threatened; or to gain the upper hand during a war, among other reasons.

A lawmaker in the assembly says the law would serve as a powerful legal safeguard to cement North Korea’s position as a nuclear-weapon state and ensure the “transparent, consistent and standard nature” of its nuclear policy , reported KCNA.

“In fact, stating the terms of use is particularly rare, and it may simply be a product of North Korea’s position, how much it values ​​nuclear weapons and how essential it considers them for its survival.” , said Rob York, director of regional affairs. at the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum.

PREVENTIVE STRIKES

The original 2013 law stated that North Korea could use nuclear weapons to repel the invasion or attack of a hostile nuclear state and to carry out retaliatory strikes.

The new law goes beyond to allow preemptive nuclear strikes if an imminent attack by weapons of mass destruction or against the country’s “strategic targets”, including its leaders, is detected.

“In a nutshell, there are really vague and ambiguous circumstances under which North Korea is now saying it could use its nuclear weapons,” said Chad O’Carroll, founder of the North Korea tracking website. NK News, on Twitter.

“I imagine the purpose is to give American and South Korean military planners pause to reflect on a much wider range of actions than before,” he added.

Like the previous law, the new version pledges not to threaten non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons unless they join a nuclear-weapon state in attacking the North.

The new law adds, however, that it can launch a preemptive nuclear strike if it detects an imminent attack of any kind targeting North Korea’s leadership and its nuclear forces command organization.

It’s an apparent 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.

Kim cited Kill Chain, part of a beefed up three-pronged military strategy under new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, as a sign the situation is deteriorating and Pyongyang needs to prepare for long-term tensions .

Under the law, Kim has “all decisive powers” over nuclear weapons, but if the command and control system is threatened, then nuclear weapons can be launched “automatically”.

If Kim delegates launch authority to lower commanders during a crisis, it could increase the chances of a catastrophic miscalculation, analysts said.

“RESPONSIBLE NUCLEAR STATE”

The law prohibits any sharing of nuclear weapons or technology with other countries and aims to reduce the danger of nuclear war by preventing miscalculations between nuclear-weapon states and the misuse of nuclear weapons. , reported KCNA.

Analysts say Kim’s goal is to get the international community to accept North Korea’s status as a “responsible nuclear state.”

US President Joe Biden’s administration has offered to talk to Kim anytime and anywhere, and Yoon said his country would provide massive economic aid if Pyongyang started giving up its arsenal.

South Korea on Thursday offered to hold talks with North Korea on reuniting families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, in its first direct overture under Yoon, despite strained cross-border ties. Read more

North Korea, however, has rebuffed those overtures, saying the United States and its allies maintain “hostile policies” such as sanctions and military exercises that undermine their messages of peace.

“As long as nuclear weapons remain on earth and imperialism persists and the maneuvers of the United States and its supporters against our republic are not ended, our work to strengthen nuclear force will not cease,” Kim said. .

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Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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