Kim warns North Korea could ‘preemptively’ use nuclear weapons

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has again warned that North Korea could use its nuclear weapons preemptively if threatened, praising its top military officers for a massive military parade in the capital Pyongyang this week.

Kim expressed his "strong will" to continue developing its nuclear-armed army so that it can "pre-emptively and completely contain and thwart all dangerous attempts and threatening movements, including escalating nuclear threats from hostile forces, if necessary"the North Korean official said. Central News Agency said on Saturday.

KCNA said Kim called out his military officers to praise their work during Monday’s parade, where North Korea displayed the biggest weapons in its nuclear arsenal, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the United States. North Korea has also launched a variety of short-range solid-fuel missiles designed to be fired from ground vehicles or underwater, posing a growing threat to South Korea and Japan.

KCNA did not say when Kim’s meeting with top military brass took place.

The parade marking the 90th anniversary of North Korea’s military comes as Kim revives brinkmanship in nuclear politics aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of ​​his country as a nuclear power and remove crippling economic sanctions.

Speaking to thousands of soldiers and spectators gathered for the parade, Kim vowed to develop his nuclear forces at the “fastest possible speed” and threatened to use them if provoked. He said his nuclear weapons would “never be limited to the sole mission of war deterrence” in situations where the North faces external threats to its “fundamental interests.”

Kim’s comments suggested he would continue a provocative run on weapons tests to increase pressure on Washington and Seoul. South Korea will inaugurate a new conservative government in May that could take a tougher line with Pyongyang after outgoing liberal President Moon Jae-in’s compromise policies have produced little.

Kim’s threat to use his nuclear forces to protect his country’s ambiguously defined “core interests” possibly foreshadows an escalating nuclear doctrine that could raise further concern for South Korea, Japan and the United States, experts say.

North Korea has conducted 13 rounds of weapons launches so far this year, including its first full-range test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, as Kim takes advantage of a favorable environment to push his weapons program as the Council of UN security remains divided and effectively paralyzed by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

There are also signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels in a nuclear test range that was last active in 2017. Some experts say the North could attempt a new test sometime between the inauguration of the president-elect of South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, on May 10. and his planned summit with US President Joe Biden on May 21 to maximize its political effect.

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US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said the United States was aware of reports that North Korea may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test, which she said would be deeply destabilizing for the region and would undermine the global non-proliferation regime.

“We urge the DPRK to refrain from further destabilizing activities and instead engage in serious and sustained dialogue,” he said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim’s recent comments followed a fiery statement issued by his powerful sister earlier this month in which he criticized South Korea’s defense minister for touting pre-emptive strike capabilities against North Korea. She said that the nuclear forces of her country would annihilate the conventional forces of the South if provoked.

Yoon, during his campaign, also talked about improving the South’s pre-emptive strike capabilities and anti-missile defenses. He also promised to strengthen South Korea’s defense along with its alliance with the United States.

While Kim’s ICBM collection has garnered much international attention, North Korea since 2019 has also been expanding its arsenal of short-range solid-fuel missiles that threaten South Korea.

North Korea describes some of those missiles as weapons "tactics", which experts say convey the threat of arming them with smaller nuclear bombs for the battlefield and using them proactively during conventional warfare to challenge the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the United States. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in the South.

North Korea may use its upcoming nuclear test to claim that it has gained the ability to build a small nuclear warhead to fit on those missiles or other weapons it recently tested, including a purported hypersonic missile and a long-range cruise missile, the experts say. analysts. Smaller warheads would also be needed for the North’s search for a multi-warhead ICBM.

“Solid-fuel missiles are easier to conceal, move and launch quickly, making them less vulnerable to preemptive attack,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“Taken together with ambitions for tactical nuclear warheads, submarine-based launch capabilities, and more sophisticated ICBMs, Pyongyang does not simply seek to deter an attack. Its goals extend to overtaking South Korea in an arms race and forcing the United States to reduce sanctions enforcement and security cooperation with Seoul,” Easley added.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since 2019 over disagreements over a possible relaxation of US-led sanctions in exchange for North Korean disarmament steps.

Kim has stuck to his goals of simultaneously developing nuclear weapons and the country’s dismal economy in the face of international pressure, and has shown no willingness to fully surrender a nuclear arsenal that he sees as his best guarantee of survival.

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