Yonhap News has reported that North Korea has declared a policy regarding the use of it’s nuclear arsenal. The statement comes as the North Korean Workers Party is holding it’s first Congress in 36 years and after months of provocations by the regime.
during a speech given to the Workers Party Congress, Kim Jong Un stated:
“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes,”
Kim’s stated policy sounds very similar to the post Cold War Russian policy, which stated that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if facing overwhelming conventional aggression. This policy was adopted after the U.S.S.R’s collapse destroyed Russia’s conventional military superiority.
Such a policy implies that North Korea would use a nuclear weapon only if it was attacked by a another nuclear armed state. This is a reversal from just a few months ago, when they claimed their nuclear forces had adopted a “preemptive posture.“Which basically means they were ready to attack first, without warning.
This is also a departure from North Korea’s usual rhetoric about turning Seoul or Washington D.C into a sea of flames. Given the phrasing, Kim is likely trying to normalize the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state; enacting a policy and protocols for nuclear use. This is a clear and measured policy about when the regime will use force. It is a statement that any nuclear weapons state could have made, Russia, Pakistan, or even the United States.
North Korea seems to have taken a different tone this party congress. Having extended other olive branches as well. This has included an offer to negotiate with so -called “enemy nations” and normalize ties.
As nice as peace (and a sane DPRK) may sound, context is always important. Just this year they showed off an ICBM and a mock-up of a nuclear warhead. In the past two months alone, North Korea has conducted several rocket and missile tests. Currently, they are preparing another nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site.
So yes, a sudden change of heart is a bit hard to believe, especially when there is probably a worker prepping a nuclear device in an underground shaft as I type this sentence.
The DPRK seems to be trying a (somewhat erratic) carrot and stick approach with the rest of the world. Just before their last series of missiles test they made a similar offer to negotiate with the United States in exchange for a halt to military exercises between the U.S and South Korea. President Obama quickly dismissed that offer, saying that he did not take the offer seriously based on North Korea’s recent actions.
Take this announcement with a grain of salt, because it could end tomorrow with another nuclear test, or next month with North Korean nuclear weapons on high alert.