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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends an event earlier this year marking the anniversary of the army’s founding. Photo: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

North Korea ‘on the path of self-destruction’ if it uses nuclear weapons, Seoul warns

  • Seoul’s Defence Ministry warned the North that it would face an ‘overwhelming response’ from US and South Korea if it attempted to use nuclear weapons
  • Pyongyang last week passed a law allowing it to use such weapons if its leadership faces attack or to prevent an unspecified ‘catastrophic crisis’
South Korea
South Korea warned North Korea on Tuesday that using its nuclear weapons would put it on a “path of self-destruction”, in unusually harsh language that came days after Pyongyang introduced a new law that would allow it to use its nuclear weapons preemptively.
North Korea is likely to be infuriated by the South Korean rhetoric as Seoul typically shuns such strong words to avoid raising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the legislation would only deepen North Korea’s isolation and prompt Seoul and Washington to “further strengthen their deterrence and reaction capacities”.


North Korea celebrates 74th anniversary as Pyongyang passes new nuclear law

North Korea celebrates 74th anniversary as Pyongyang passes new nuclear law

To get North Korea not to use its nuclear weapons, the ministry said South Korea will sharply boost its own pre-emptive attack, missile defence and massive retaliation capacities while seeking a greater US security commitment to defend its ally South Korea with all available capabilities, including nuclear one.

“We warn that the North Korean government would face the overwhelming response by the South Korea-US military alliance and go on the path of self-destruction, if it attempts to use nuclear weapons,” Moon Hong-sik, an acting ministry spokesman, told reporters.

Last week, North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament adopted the legislation on the governing rules of its nuclear arsenal. The legislation would allow North Korea to use its nuclear weapons if its leadership faces an imminent attack or if it aims to prevent an unspecified “catastrophic crisis” to its people.

North Korea passes law to use nuclear weapons at first strike

The loose wording raised concerns the rules are largely meant as a legal basis to use its nuclear weapons pre-emptively to intimidate its rivals into making concessions amid long-stalled diplomacy on its weapons arsenal.

During the parliament’s meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a speech that his country will never abandon its nuclear weapons it needs to cope with US threats. He accused the United States of pushing to weaken the North’s defences and eventually collapse his government.
Kim has dialled up weapons tests to a record pace this year by test-launching a slew of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles targeting both the US mainland and South Korea. For months, US and South Korean officials have said North Korea could also carry out its first nuclear test in five years.
Since taking office in May, South Korea’s new conservative government, led by President Yoon Suk-yeol, has said it would take a tougher stance on North Korean provocation but also offered massive support plans if the North denuclearises. North Korea has bluntly rejected that aid-for-disarmament offer and unleashed crude insults on the Yoon government.
A US Army M1A2 tank fires during a joint US-South Korea live-fire drill last month. Photo Yonhap via AFP
Seoul’s use of words like “self-destruction” is unusual but it’s not the first time. When South Korea was governed by another conservative leader, Park Geun-hye, from 2013-2017, her government also warned North Korea would evaporate from Earth or self-destruct with its provocations, as the North conducted a slew of missile and nuclear tests.
Liberal President Moon Jae-in, who served from 2017 until this year, championed greater reconciliation between the Koreas. He was credited for arranging now-stalled nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington but also faced criticism that such a diplomacy only allowed Kim to buy time to perfect weapons technology while enjoying an elevated standing on the world stage.