North Korea’s nuclear law reflects a global trend

Analysts say North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has said he will never give up his nuclear weapons and has enshrined the “first strike” doctrine into law, part of a troubling new dynamic of escalating nuclear weapons policies around the world.

Since the height of the Cold War, nuclear arsenals have served mainly as a deterrent, used only as a last resort, but when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, that all began to change, experts say.

Russian officials have refused to rule out a nuclear strike on Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made thinly veiled threats of nuclear war, vowing on Wednesday that Moscow would use “all means at our disposal to defend 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 variety of scenarios for the use of its nuclear weapons.

“We have entered a new era in which one nation is open to using nuclear weapons, in contrast to the Cold War doctrine,” Kim Jong-dae of the Yonsei Institute for North Korea Studies told AFP.

With talk of “automatic” first strikes and tactical deployment of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s new policy “reflects Kim’s response to changing nuclear dynamics around the world,” he said.

Pyongyang isn’t just reacting to Putin: The United States has also played a role, the analyst added, pointing to the resurgence of its tactical nuclear weapons — smaller weapons designed for combat use — under President Donald Trump.

In 2018, the Trump-led Pentagon turned its attention to Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons to make the case that the United States has the appropriate weapons as a credible deterrent.

“We should not equate Pyongyang’s latest move with an irrational decision or Kim’s unpredictability. Kim is cleverly adapting to the new world trend,” he said.

– Conversations are dead? –

In announcing North Korea’s new policy, Kim Jong-un said the country’s status as a nuclear power is “irreversible,” effectively ruling out denuclearization talks.

Washington’s decade-old goal of getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons for aid is now “unachievable” and Seoul should seriously consider acquiring nuclear weapons of its own, said Jeon Song Chang of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korea Studies. AFP.

It’s a move rejected even by new President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, although he hinted during the campaign that he might be open to the United States deploying tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.

Kim’s new law also “sends a message to President Yun,” Jeong said, calling it a clear warning that “Seoul will not be spared nuclear strikes” if it attacks or joins a US attack on North Korea.

The aim of the law is to “emphasize that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are part of its national identity and cannot be revoked,” Mason Ritchie of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies told AFP.

“There is also a message to potential aggressors that an attempted first disarmament strike against North Korea will fail,” he added, saying it raised stakes in the region.

“The risk here is that North Korea is playing into the escalation dynamic of the use-it-or-lose-it logic.”

– “Beheading Mode” –

Kim is trying to use his nuclear weapons to stave off any threats to his rule, analysts say.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries have trained together for years and recently increased the number of exercises under Yun’s leadership.

There have been reports that commandos from both countries are practicing so-called “beheading” strikes aimed at North Korea’s leadership.

Kim appears to be afraid of decapitating the regime as a result of conflict and even a preemptive strike by the US or South Korea on North Korean strategic assets,” said Leif-Erik Easley, a professor at Iwha University in Seoul.

He decided in response to “promote an irresponsibly risky and aggressive nuclear doctrine.”

Seoul and Washington strongly condemned North Korea’s new law, saying any attempt by Pyongyang to use nuclear weapons would be met with an “overwhelming and decisive” response.

But the risk that North Korea will be punished at the global level for its move is small.

“With Russia and China clear enemies of the United States, the North feels emboldened and knows that enforcement of sanctions will be very weak,” Harry Kazianis, president of the Rogue States Project think tank, told AFP.

As such, Pyongyang has focused on creating “a world-class program that can kill millions of people in a matter of minutes.”

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Russia is intensifying “nuclear blackmail”: the director of the plant

Yuzhnoukransk, Ukraine (AFP), September 20, 2022

Russia is intensifying “nuclear blackmail” by bombing the site of the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant, its director Ihar Polovych said on Tuesday. With Monday’s strike in southern Mykolaiv Oblast, “the second stage of their nuclear blackmail began,” Polovitch said. Attacks around nuclear facilities in Ukraine have prompted calls from Kiev and its Western allies to demilitarize the areas around the complexes. AFP journalists on Tuesday saw a deep crater strewn with shell fragments… read on North Korea’s nuclear law reflects a global trend

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