SEOUL - North Korea passed a law enshrining the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself, a move that leader Kim Jong Un said makes its nuclear status “irreversible” and bars any denuclearisation talks, state media reported on Friday.
The move comes as observers say that 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 world leaders in 2018 failed to persuade Mr Kim to abandon his weapons development.
“The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons,” Mr Kim said in a speech to the assembly.
North Korea has already declared itself a nuclear weapons state in its constitution, but the new law goes beyond that to outline when nuclear weapons can be used, including to respond to an attack, or stop an invasion.
It also allows for preemptive nuclear strikes if an imminent attack by weapons of mass destruction or against the country’s “strategic targets” is detected.
The law also bans any sharing of nuclear arms or technology with other countries, KCNA reported.
A deputy at the assembly said the law would serve as a powerful legal guarantee for consolidating North Korea’s position as a nuclear weapons state and ensuring the “transparent, consistent and standard character” of its nuclear policy, KCNA reported.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it was “closely monitoring” any military activity on the Korean peninsula, shortly after North Korea officially enshrined the right to use pre-emptive nuclear strikes, state-owned news agency RIA reported.
RIA quoted the ministry as saying that “recent moves by the US” made it difficult to convince North Korea that its security could be ensured by political, rather than military, means and accused Washington of de-stabilising the peninsula.
US President Joe Biden's administration has offered to talk to Mr Kim any time, at any place, and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has said his country would provide massive amounts of economic aid if Pyongyang began to give up its arsenal.
North Korea has rebuffed those overtures, however, saying that the United States and its allies maintain “hostile policies” such as sanctions and military drills that undermine their messages of peace.
“As long as nuclear weapons remain on earth and imperialism remains and manoeuvres of the United States and its followers against our republic are not terminated, our work to strengthen nuclear force will not cease,” Mr Kim said. REUTERS