Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 14)

All News 06:59 September 14, 2022

Growing nuclear threats
: North Korea makes preemptive nuclear strike possible

North Korea has expanded the possible use of nuclear weapons from deterrence to a preemptive nuclear strike. It has also declared its determination not to give up its nuclear arsenal, heightening tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that his regime has no intention of abandoning its nuclear program, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) last Friday. The previous day, Kim revealed his hardline stance in a speech at the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly which promulgated a law on the North's nuclear policy.

The law defines the role of the North's nuclear force, its composition and its command and control. It allows Kim to have the exclusive right to order the use of nuclear weapons. It also enables Pyongyang to launch a nuclear strike automatically if attacked. The legislation opens the possibility of launching a preemptive nuclear strike in a contingency.

The law is raising concerns because it enables the North to respond to a non-nuclear attack with nuclear weapons. In 2012, Pyongyang inserted a clause into its constitution that North Korea is a nuclear weapons state. In 2013, the country enacted a law that calls for the use of nuclear arms only in the case that a country possessing such weapons invades or strikes the North.

But the new law states that a nuclear strike can be carried out automatically and immediately to destroy the origin of a provocation, if the command and control system of the nuclear forces is in danger of an attack by hostile forces. In other words, the North has expanded the use of nuclear arms beyond deterrence. This is a serious cause for concern for South Korea.

We cannot help but express our deep regret and dismay at the North's aggressive move toward its nuclear arsenal. The North's new position is a reversal of its 2016 commitment not to use nuclear weapons first. That commitment has begun to change this year. Kim said during a military parade on April 25 that the North's nuclear arsenal cannot be confined to preventing war although its basic role lies in deterrence.

There are growing fears that the North could use tactical nuclear weapons, which are in the development stage, against the South Korean military and the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). The Kim regime might face a security crisis if it scraps its nuclear weapons as seen in Ukraine. But the North's move is making its denuclearization much more difficult. Tensions will be heightened further if Pyongyang conducts its seventh nuclear test.

Against this backdrop, South Korea needs to step up its security alliance with the U.S. to deal with mounting nuclear threats from the North. The two allies are expected to hold an Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG) meeting in Washington, D.C, Friday. They should work out effective measures against the North's nuclear blackmail. The Yoon Suk-yeol administration must map out a new strategy as the North has virtually rejected its "audacious initiative" to provide Pyongyang with generous assistance in exchange for starting denuclearization.

Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!