North Korea’s change in nuclear weapons policy that allows for pre-emptive strikes has been called a “very worrying development” by CND, as global nuclear tensions continue to rise. 

Last week, Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea had officially become a nuclear weapons state and would never give up its arsenal. The country’s parliament also codified in law conditions for a first-use policy when it comes to carrying out a nuclear strike.

The state-run KCNA agency said the law would allow for North Korean forces to launch a nuclear strike if its leadership faced an imminent attack or if the regime felt it was necessary to prevent a “catastrophic crisis to the existence of the state and safety of the people.” It replaces a 2013 law that allowed for nuclear use to “repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.”

READ MORE – North Korea and the US: Nuclear Threats

Meanwhile, a series of new propaganda posters released this week include two which reference North Korea’s ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. It’s the first time since 2017 that ballistic missiles featured prominently in Pyongyang’s PR, and were taken down as a gesture of goodwill during denuclearisation talks with the US in 2018. 

Joining the first strike club

The change in policy brings North Korea in line with many other nuclear weapons states as only China and India currently maintain a no-first use policy.

The UK government ambiguously says it will use nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances of self-defence.” However, Britain’s nuclear weapons are assigned to NATO which has a first use policy. Russia allows for a nuclear strike to be carried out if the country faces a threat from conventional weapons, or the existence of the state is threatened. 

CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said: “North Korea’s adoption of a first-use nuclear policy is the latest worrying development in a year where global nuclear tensions have reached their highest in decades. Of all the nuclear powers, only two now commit to a no-first use policy. CND calls on all nuclear weapons states to adopt a no-first use policy as a positive step towards de-escalation and nuclear disarmament.”