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North Korean Leader Pledges to Strengthen Nuclear Forces at ‘Fastest Possible Speed’

Kim Jong-un confirms shift in N. Korea’s nuclear doctrine, say analysts.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) waves during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Monday to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of its army, in this photo released the next day by the North`s official Korean Central News Agency. (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) waves during a military parade at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Monday to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of its army, in this photo released the next day by the North`s official Korean Central News Agency. (Yonhap)

The North Korean leader pledged to further reinforce and develop nuclear-armed forces “at the fastest possible speed,” suggesting that North Korea can launch a preemptive nuclear strike if adversaries violate the country’s “fundamental interests.”

General Secretary Kim Jong-un on Monday delivered a speech during a nighttime massive military parade held at the Kim Il-sung Square in the capital Pyongyang, North Korea state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.

The military parade, which displayed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic weapons, was held to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army on April 25.

Kim, in military uniform, said the current situation calls for North Korea to “take more proactive measures to permanently and firmly guarantee the modernity and military and technological strength of the armed forces of the DPRK.”

The North Korean leader underscored that his country “must strengthen nuclear-armed forces, which is a symbol of national power and the basis of the country’s military power, in quality and quantity.”

“We will step toward the path to build self-defense and modern armed forces faster and more steadily, which we have walked along relentlessly, in preparation for the turbulent political and military situation and all kinds of crises in the future,” Kim said.

“In particular, we will continue to take measures to further strengthen and develop nuclear-armed forces, which our country possesses, at the fastest possible speed.”

Kim underlined that the reinforcement aims to “demonstrate the country’s nuclear combat capabilities by different means” in any war situation, depending on the purpose of military operations and the mission of nuclear-armed forces.

The North Korean leader conspicuously suggested that the country could aggressively and preemptively use nuclear weapons if needed. North Korea had focused on ensuring nuclear retaliatory or second-strike capability as a deterrence.

“The basic mission of our nuclear-armed forces is to deter war, but our nuclear weapons can no longer be bound by one mission of preventing war until a situation we never want is created on our territory,” Kim said in the public speech.

“Our nuclear-armed forces will have no choice but to carry out its unlooked-for, second mission if any force attempts to infringe upon the fundamental interests of our country.”

The North Korean leader underlined that the nuclear-armed forces must be “thoroughly prepared” to perform its mission and demonstrate deterrence capability at any time. But Kim said the North Korean armed forces “are confidently ready for any fight,” warning of retaliation against enemies.

“If any forces attempt a military confrontation against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, they will be destroyed.”

Park Won-gon, professor of North Korea studies at Ewha Womans University, pointed out that the North Korean leader “clarified a very aggressive nuclear strategy,” pointing to Kim’s remarks that the country could use nuclear weapons when a third country seeks to impinge on “fundamental interests.”

“What Kim Jong-un has publicly stated is the highest level (pronouncement) and final position due to the nature of the North Korean regime,” Park said. “But national interest is a nebulous concept that North Korea can arbitrarily expand.”

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