North Korea has adopted a new doctrine that would see the country "automatically and immediately" use nuclear weapons in the event it felt that its Chairman Kim Jong Un had died as the result of assassination.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) adopted its new "Policy on Nuclear Forces" on Thursday. The new nuclear posture addressed a number of situations, but the most concerning one for international officials focused on what would happen in the event that "command and control" over the nuclear force were in danger because of an "attack."
"In case the command and control system over the state nuclear forces is placed in danger owing to an attack by hostile forces, a nuclear strike shall be launched automatically and immediately to destroy the hostile forces including the starting point of provocation and the command according to the operation plan decided in advance," the policy said, according KCNA Watch.
The policy also applied to "a nuclear or non-nuclear attack … on state leadership" and "important strategic objects of the state."
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that U.N. chief remained "deeply concerned" about the new policy, which is "contrary to decades of efforts" to reduce nuclear proliferation.
"The DPRK, by pursuing its nuclear weapons program, including its development of missiles using ballistic missile technology, continues to disregard the resolutions of the Security Council to cease such activities," the spokesman said in a statement to reporters.
"The Secretary-General reiterates his call to the DPRK to resume dialogue with the key parties concerned with a view to achieving sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the spokesman continued.
The new policy appears to have passed as part of Kim’s renewed hard line stance to "never" part with the nuclear capabilities his country has worked for decades to build, nor to use them as a bargaining chip for denuclearization with the United States.
Kim stressed in a statement Friday that the policy has "great significance in drawing a line" for his country in opposition to foreign powers, according to state-run media. He added that the country’s nuclear stance and policies would not change until the "political and military conditions of the Korean Peninsula" do as well.
Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Politico that this course of action was "quite predictable" and "underscores the dangers of the U.S. and South Korea focusing on decapitation strategies."
South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol had recently speculated during a TV debate on Thursday that a "preemptive strike" on North Korea might be necessary in order to curb war and "protect world peace."
"We are not trying to wage war, but to curb it," Yoon said, adding, "The kill chain, which is called a preliminary blow, is to protect peace."
Justice Party presidential candidate Sim Sang-jeung argued that Yoon’s stance is dangerous as "a preemptive strike is going straight to war. It is like a declaration of war," according to the Korea Herald.