North Korea’s parliament has unanimously moved to enshrine its nuclear programme in the country’s constitution.
The state news agency KCNA reported on the “crucial agenda item” early on Thursday, explaining that the new constitutional amendment would establish North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear force “as the basic law of the state”.
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The news follows a meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday of the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature. The country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, addressed the assembly to support the passage of the amendment.
Kim called to “accelerate the modernisation of nuclear weapons in order to hold the definite edge of strategic deterrence” against perceived threats, like the United States and South Korea.
“This is a historic event that provided a powerful political lever for remarkably strengthening the national defence capabilities,” Kim said, according to the KCNA.
“The [North Korean] nuclear force-building policy has been made permanent as the basic law of the state, which no one is allowed to flout with anything.”
Just days prior, North Korean Ambassador Kim Song warned the United Nations General Assembly that his country could be pushed to nuclear war by “hostile threats from outside”.
“The Korean peninsula is in a hair-trigger situation with imminent danger of nuclear war breakout,” Ambassador Kim said on Tuesday.
Citing “extremely dangerous” conditions, he added that North Korea “is urgently required to further accelerate the build-up of its self-defence capabilities to defend itself impregnably”.
The announcement that nuclear weapons would be enshrined in the country’s constitution comes in defiance of multiple UN Security Council sanctions, meant to deter North Korea from pursuing nuclear arms.
Over the past year, North Korea has been escalating the number of weapons tests it conducts, launching an array of ballistic and cruise missiles.
Since 2006, it has also conducted six nuclear tests, though the last one took place in 2017. US officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, have sounded the alarm over the possibility that a seventh test could be on the horizon.
“He will uncork that at a time and place of his choosing, which is something we’ll be watching for very, very carefully,” Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, said in March.
Berrier at the time warned that North Korea has become “much more dangerous” as it expands its arsenal of missiles and nuclear weapons.
In January 2022, for example, the country announced its first successful test of a hypersonic missile, a weapon that can surpass the speed of sound. In April, it successfully launched its first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), an advancement over liquid-fuel versions, which are slower to launch and harder to use.
“He continues to pursue greater accuracy and lethality with his with his missile force,” Berrier said.
But North Korean officials have framed the nuclear build-up as necessary to repel threats from the US, South Korea and Japan, an alliance leader Kim Jong Un has compared to an “Asian-version NATO”.
The three countries have conducted regular joint military exercises in the Pacific region, an act that North Korean state media has termed “nuclear blackmail”.
Putin pledged to visit North Korea in return, raising concerns about an arms trade deal between the two countries.