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N.Korea could use nuclear weapons at any stage of conflict: Pentagon

Sept. 29, 2023 - 11:41 By Ji Da-gyum
This photo, carried by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency Septemer 3, shows what North Korea called a drill for a "tactical nuclear attack." (Yonhap)

North Korea's advancements in nuclear and missile capabilities have enabled the country to deploy its nuclear weapons "at any stage of conflict," the US Defense Department said in a new defense strategy revealed Thursday.

The Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction has been updated for the first time since 2014. This update reflects the current and emerging challenges and threats associated with WMD, including the trend of actors that pose a threat to the US.

The Pentagon defined North Korea as a "persistent threat" in the strategy, emphasizing that the country has prioritized its nuclear weapons arsenal and ballistic missile force as delivery means.

"The DPRK is developing and fielding mobile short-, intermediate-, and intercontinental-range nuclear capabilities that place the US homeland and regional allies and partners at risk," the Pentagon said, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Capability developments provide the DPRK with options for nuclear weapons use at any stage of conflict."

The new CWMD strategy highlighted that in 2022, North Korea enacted a law detailing its intention to preemptively use nuclear weapons in specific situations. The circumstances include responding to the perceived threat of an imminent nuclear attack, threats against the Kim Jong-un regime, the population, the state's existence, or as an option for offensive warfare.

The US Defense Department also said that North Korea's "longstanding chemical and biological weapons capabilities remain a threat," as the country "may use such weapons during a conflict."

North Korea's chemical employment methods encompass artillery, ballistic missiles, and unconventional forces. North Korea maintains an inventory of "up to several thousand metric tons of chemical warfare agents" and possesses the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents.

Tension has been building in the region as South Korea, the US and Japan tout their stronger defense cooperation against North Korea, which has begun to publicly display stronger military ties with Russia.