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EDGrowing NK nuclear threat

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ROK-US alliance should be strengthened steadfastly

North Korea has recently revised its constitution to expand and boost its nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang's rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) included a new law into the constitution, indicating the drive to bolster the North's nuclear force is now permanent, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday. The North has refuted any possibility for discussion about its possible denuclearization.

The recent move follows a similar one made last year when the North institutionalized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to increase the production of nuclear weapons exponentially and take the central role in cementing ties with countries that confront the United States and the West. Kim has enhanced the status of the agency in charge of developing missiles and satellites to provide more power and authority.

This means Pyongyang's bid toward nuclear buildup has entered a new phase. The North displayed a tactical nuclear submarine earlier this year and will likely test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) soon. The U.S. Department of Defense said the North places the U.S. and its regional allies at risk. It went on to say the North can use nuclear weapons at any stage of military confrontations in its report, "2023 Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction." This means the North would possibly use nuclear weapons even at the initial stage of a potential war.

We cannot help but express a strong regret over the North's recent decision as it has had a far-reaching adverse impact on the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. Further, it would darken the prospects for seeking solutions to regional security problems through dialogue and negotiations. It is nonsense that the North claims it would bolster ties with Russia "for the sake of world peace" in that it had been the target of international criticism for its repeated military provocations in violation of United Nations resolutions.

North Korea's endeavor to build up its nuclear arsenal prompts the need for us to boost the alliance with the U.S. further and join hands with global society in denouncing the North's provocations. In this vein, it is timely that representatives from South Korea, the U.S. and Japan fired salvos at the North while calling for its denuclearization in a joint message delivered at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Against this backdrop, the South Korea-U.S. alliance which marks its 70th anniversary is especially meaningful. The alliance kicked off with the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the South and the U.S. on Oct. 1, 1953. It has played a decisive role in preventing war on the peninsula. Now it has evolved into the current state where the two allies jointly discuss the operation of the U.S. nuclear arsenal through the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG).

Yet, we have still a long way to go. As the North has amended its constitution to bolster its nuclear force, the Korea-U.S. alliance must be fortified with steadfast sustainability. There should be a device to prevent the alliance from being undermined by changes in government. However, it does not necessarily mean the need to rely on a certain nation only for national security, given the fluctuations and shifts in international security and diplomatic situations. While maintaining close relations with the U.S., there should be more efforts to have brisker contacts and dialogues with China and Russia. As the North has been desperate to cope with the emergence of a new Cold War era, we also need to employ more proactive attitudes in dealing with the changed security environment.

Shim Jae-yun


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