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A new law passed in Pyongyang’s parliament has decreed that North Korea will pre-emptively launch nuclear weapons in response to any serious attack on it or its leaders. The new law enshrines the right to “automatically and immediately” use preventive nuclear strikes in order to protect Kim Jong Un, the country’s leader, from foreign threats. The North Korean dictator told the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) that Pyongyang would never negotiate over its nuclear weapons.

This confirms the fears held by many around the world, that the country intends to remain a nuclear power, despite US pressure over decades.

The new legislation appears to have been written up to protect the country against attempts by foreign countries to stage a coup and create a regime change.

The law is also meant to counter South Korea’s “kill chain” strategy, which allows Seoul to preemptively strike North Korea if it suspects an imminent nuclear attack.

Jong-Un told the SPA- “The aim of the United States is not just to eliminate our nuclear weapons themselves but also, ultimately, to bring down our regime anytime by forcing [North Korea] to put down nuclear weapons and give up or weaken the power to exercise self-defence.

“The utmost significance of legislating nuclear weapons policy is to draw an irretrievable line so that there can be no bargaining over our nuclear weapons”.

However, the move comes as experts warn North Korea looks set to restart nuclear testing, which would see Pyongyang flex its arsenal’s capabilities for the first time since 2017.

Historic summits with ex-US President Donald Trump and other world leaders in 2018 failed to dissuade Kim from advancing his weapons development.

The law replaces a previous 2013 policy, which was far less expansive, noting that North Korea would only deploy nuclear weapons to repel an invasion or an attack from a hostile nuclear state.

The updated law now outlines five conditions in which Pyongyang could deploy nuclear weapons, which includes a response to conventional attacks on state leaders like Kim Jong Un, and on “strategic assets.”

It could also fire missiles to prevent the “expansion or protraction” of a conflict. The assembly’s deputy said the law would serve as a powerful legal guarantee to protect North Korea’s position.

They added it would ensure the “transparent, consistent and standard character” of its nuclear policy.

Kim Tae-woo, a military analyst who previously headed the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul told Bloomberg: “They are elevating a nuclear-deterrent policy to a nuclear-combat policy.

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“It’s a highly effective, low-cost strategy to deter attacks on Kim.”

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the law signalled Kim “appears to be lacking confidence in his so-called war deterrent,” which has left him“fearful of regime decapitation in a conflict and even of a US or South Korean preemptive strike against North Korea’s strategic assets.

“These concerns would be best addressed through diplomacy and reducing self-isolation, but instead Pyongyang is advertising an irresponsibly risky and aggressive nuclear doctrine.

“Such pariah state behaviour is likely to deepen arms race dynamics in Asia as other countries act to counter North Korean threats to stability.”

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