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Understanding North Korea's New Nuclear Law

Or, why Kim Jong-un will never give up nuclear weapons.

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has made his intentions clear - he will never give up nuclear weapons.

North Korea has spent years creating and testing nuclear weapons, and it is currently in possession of both operational nuclear and ballistic missile systems. The entire international community has frequently been put in danger by North Korea's nuclear-related acts and policies.

The one question in mind was - will North Korea eventually give up its nuclear program - the answer to this question has been clearly answered by North Korea’s new nuclear law.

North Korea has recently passed a law, allowing the country to automatically use nuclear strikes or weapons in order to protect itself. According to North Korea's state media, the country's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has stated that the country's nuclear position is 'irreversible' and that any talks of denuclearisation are out of the question. In simple words, North Korea has authorized nuclear strikes, which means that Kim Jong-un can put this law into effect if it believes that the state is in danger or under attack.

According to the law, Kim has all the decision powers over the nuclear weapons, although they will be fired ‘automatically’ if the command system is in danger or under threat.

‘Responsible Nuclear State’

In addition to preventing the nuclear weapons states from misusing their nuclear arsenals and to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear conflict, the new nuclear law also outlaws the transfer and supply of nuclear technology or armaments to other countries. The title of ‘responsible nuclear state’ is what Kim wants to achieve here.

In response, the new South Korean ‘kill chain’ strategy, which calls for striking North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure and command system if an imminent strike is suspected, may have contributed to the passing of this law. The President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol has adopted a strict stance and a hard core policy towards North Korea.

Such policy of ‘first strike’ contradicts the no-first use policy, which is a policy and a pledge by nuclear weapon countries not to use its weapons in a conflict or war unless it has been first attacked by an enemy who has nuclear weapons.

North Korea has a long and lengthy history of breaching the nuclear agreements and treaties. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, which obliges states without nuclear weapons to pledge to never develop or acquire nuclear weapons. In 2018, historic talks with the then-president of the United States Donald Trump, and other international leaders, fell short of convincing Kim to give up on his weapons program. Even though Kim Jong-un pledged to Trump that it will dismantle all of its nuclear material enrichment facilities, however, according to the United Nations’s nuclear agency, the satellite images were showing a different story - North Korea reactor was producing weapons grade plutonium.

North Korea conducted six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017 in violation of resolutions of the United Nations Security Council; it has continued to develop its military capabilities and pose a great threat to its neighbors. Recently, in 2022, North Korea has launched missile tests, the country has launched more than 30 missile tests so far. The isolated regime's nuclear tests have resulted in nothing except international criticism.

According to data by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the number of missiles launched by North Korea has increased from less than 15 missiles in 2000-2010 to more than 25- 30 missiles in 2015-2022.

Denuclearisation Efforts

The denuclearisation efforts by South Korea and the United States have now come to a halt. To denuclearise North Korea is a difficult task, though in the past South Korea and the US have held talks with North Korea, in order to get the country to commit to denuclearisation, North Korea with its new nuclear law has stated that it will no longer think about denuclearisation.

The US and the international community have been trying to negotiate an end to North Korea's development of nuclear and missiles as well as its sale of ballistic missile technology for many years though it has led to nothing but only failure.

There has been a dent in North Korea-United States relations, as North Korea always betrays the US by conducting and testing nuclear missiles. For example, the Six-Party talks, which were started in 2003 included China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States, it achieved a significant breakthrough when North Korea committed to give up all of its nuclear weapons and ongoing nuclear projects. However, the negotiations came to an end in 2009 as a result of disagreements about verification and a rocket launch by North Korea that was denounced by world leaders and the whole international community.

North Korea has not participated in the negotiations again since then, claiming that it is no longer obligated by the promises made during those talks. However, the vow of denuclearisation is upheld by the other parties.

A lot has changed since then, it is a possibility that North Korea would be willing to cooperate. South Korea has promised to provide North Korea significant economic assistance in exchange for giving up its nuclear arsenal. North Korea is experiencing a severe economic crisis and is in desperate need of some stability. At the same time, a comprehensive revamp of American policy toward North Korea is also underway in the administration of US President Joe Biden.

Ultimately, the talks will determine whether North Korea can be on the denuclearisation path or not. The international community should invite North Korea for talks and get the country on a negotiating table.


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