According to analysts, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un declares he will never give up his nuclear weapons and consecrating a “first strike” doctrine into law is part of a worrying new dynamic escalation in nuclear weapons policy around the world.
Since the height of the Cold War, nuclear arsenals have mainly served as a deterrent to be used only as a last resort, but when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, everything began to change, experts say.
Russian officials have refused to rule out the possibility of a nuclear attack on Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly covertly threatened nuclear war, vowing Wednesday that Moscow would use “all means at our disposal to protect Russia”.
North Korea – long a global pariah for its nuclear weapons program – revised its laws this month, declaring itself an “irreversible” nuclear power and offering a number of scenarios in which it would use its nuclear weapons.
“We have entered a new era in which a nation is open to the use of nuclear weapons, contrary to the Cold War doctrine,” Kim Jong-dae of the Yonsei Institute for North Korea Studies told AFP.
Speaking of early “automatic” attacks and tactical nuclear deployments, North Korea’s new policy “reflects Kim’s response to changing nuclear dynamics around the world,” he said.
It’s not just Putin that Pyongyang is responding to: the US has also played a role, the analyst added, pointing to the resurgence of its tactical nuclear weapons – smaller weapons designed for use on the battlefield – under the president. Donald Trump.
The Pentagon under Trump had pointed to Russian tactical nuclear weapons in 2018 to argue that the US had matching weapons as a credible deterrent.
“We shouldn’t identify Pyongyang’s latest move as an irrational decision or as Kim is unpredictable. Kim is agile in adapting to a new global trend,” he said.
Announcing North Korea’s new policy, Kim Jong Un said the country’s status as a nuclear power is “irreversible,” effectively eliminating the possibility of denuclearization talks.
Washington’s 10-year goal of convincing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons for aid is now “impossible” and Seoul should seriously consider acquiring its own nuclear weapons, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North. Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute AFP.
This is a step that even new hawkish president Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, ruled out, although he hinted during the election campaign that it could be open to the United States deploying tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.
Kim’s new law “carries a message to President Yoon,” Cheong said, describing it as a clear warning that “Seoul would not be spared from nuclear attacks” if it attacked or joined a US attack on Korea. North.
The goal of the law is “to emphasize that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are part of its national identity and cannot be liquidated,” Mason Richey of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies told AFP.
“There is also a message to potential attackers that a disarming first strike against North Korea will be a failure,” he added, saying this raised the stakes in the region. “The risk here is that North Korea is playing in a dynamic of ‘use it or lose it’ logic.”
Kim is trying to use his nuclear weapons to ward off any threats to his government, analysts say.
The US and South Korean militaries have been training together for years and recently stepped up drills under Yoon.
There have been reports that commandos from both countries have carried out so-called “beheading” attacks that have targeted the North Korean leadership.
Kim is “apparently fearful of the regime’s beheading in a conflict and even a preemptive strike by the United States or South Korea on North Korea’s strategic assets,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
He chose to respond by “advertising an irresponsibly risky and aggressive nuclear doctrine”.
Seoul and Washington have strongly condemned North Korea’s new law, saying that any attempt by Pyongyang to use nuclear weapons would be met with an “overwhelming and decisive” response.
But the risk of North Korea being punished globally for its move is minimal.
“With Russia and China clear enemies of the United States, the North feels encouraged and knows that the application of sanctions will be very lax,” Harry Kazianis, president of the Rogue States Project think tank, told AFP.
So Pyongyang focused on building “a world-class program that can kill millions of people in minutes”.
© 2022 AFP