In a move that could have far reaching implications, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his military to ready its nuclear weapons to be used “at a moment’s notice.” The report comes from South Korean news agency Yonhap, which cites the official North Korean state news agency, Korean Central News Agency, in confirming the development.
According to USA Today, the rather dramatic shift in North Korea’s military posture would allow the country to carry out pre-emptive attacks on its opponents. The move also comes just a day after the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday approved tough new sanctions against North Korea after the country conducted several missile tests, and one nuclear test, in the past few months. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the fresh set of sanctions imposed on North Korea are among the toughest levied in more than two decades.
Under the terms of the sanctions, all North Korean cargo ships, as well as aircraft, would have to be inspected before entering and after leaving the country. The sanctions also include the complete prohibition of sales of small arms and conventional weapons to North Korea.
A few hours after the news of the strict sanctions reached North Korea, it fired several short range projectiles into the sea. This was confirmed by the South Korean Defense Ministry.
It was just yesterday that the White House said it was not clear how Pyongyang would react to the news of the sanctions. Several countries and world organizations had welcomed the sanctions imposed on North Korea. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the move and issued statement which urged North Korea to “return to full compliance with its international obligations.”
The current strength of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is unknown. It was on January 6, 2016, that the country claimed it had detonated a nuclear weapon as part of a test. While North Korea claimed it was a hydrogen bomb, data recorded by the United States Geological Survey detected a magnitude 5.1 seismic disturbance. The seismic data received was inconsistent with the power that a hydrogen bomb would have produced. However, the seismic disturbance was of significant nature, thereby confirming that North Korea had indeed conducted a nuclear test — just that we don’t know how powerful it actually was.
While it has become a norm for North Korea to react to sanctions by test firing missiles and projectiles, this latest move to ready its nuclear arsenal is considered unusual and significant. Experts had considered the firing of projectiles as a “low level” response to the news of the sanctions. Whether they think the same about the deployment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons is something that is yet to be seen.
North Korea has not yet reacted officially to the news of the sanctions. However, they have, on several earlier occasions, said they are least bothered about any sanctions. A North Korean resident from the capital city of PyongYang was recently quoted by the Associated Press.
“No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because we’ve lived under U.S. sanctions for more than half a century. And in the future, we’re going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.”
Before the sanctions were imposed the state-run North Korean media had said that any such imposition would be considered a “grave provocation.” It further said that the sanctions would only show the “extreme” U.S. hostility against the country. The sanctions would also have no effect on the country’s future missile tests and nuclear tests.
Do you think the current tension could escalate into a full scale nuclear war?
[AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon]