“We have to give him recognition for making it clear that there will be no first use of nuclear weapons,” Park Beom-kye, a member of the Democratic Party of Korea, said on radio on Monday regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s speech at a military parade held on Saturday. Park seemed to be relaying the message of the Ministry of National Defense, which said it noted North Korea’s stance for no preemptive use of military power, viewing the North’s statement as a positive one that shows a willingness to restore foreign relations.
Kim Jong Un’s mention of war deterrence, which means nuclear weapons, was misinterpreted by the Ministry of National Defense and is now used by the ruling party to manipulate the public opinion. However, Kim’s speech said as follows: “War deterrence will never be abused or used first under any circumstances. But should anyone undermine our national security and mobilize military power against us, I will retaliate by using the most powerful offensive force at our disposal and in a preemptive manner.” These sentences alone clearly show that the ministry’s interpretation is not only self-serving but also the distortion of facts.
Kim’s comment on no first use of nuclear weapons is only lip service. North Korea publicly announced the same stance at the seventh Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea in 2016, followed by its statement on no transfer of nuclear weapons and technologies in 2018. However, they had a precondition of “no nuclear threats or provocations.” China’s announcement of the principle of no first use in 1964 was in fact the justification for late nuclear-developing countries’ ownership of nuclear weapons and a propaganda tool to put pressure on nuclear club members.
North Korea is already acting like a nuclear power. The country had bought time for the last three years with the cycle of threats, negotiations, and deadlocks and is now blunt with its intention to become a nuclear state. It is also preparing for Joe Biden’s winning of the U.S. presidential election on November 3. The recent friendly gestures towards South Korea are only to use South Korea as a bridge to Biden who puts emphasis on the alliance.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense focused on the meaningless message of the North while ignoring Kim’s threats of “retaliating by using the most powerful offensive force at our disposal and in a preemptive manner.” Such a blinded interpretation came from none other than the Ministry of National Defense and the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae also went along with such a misinterpretation. The incompetency of the ministry, which needs to understand North Korea’s military capabilities and intention more precisely than any other government agencies to be in charge of national security, shows, is truly deplorable.