North Korea has described its nuclear arsenal as “the nation’s life” and a “treasure” that would not be traded for “billions of dollars.”
The remarks followed a full meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, led by Kim Jong Un. The assertion that North Korea nukes would not be traded attempts to dismiss the theory that Pyongyang may disarm its nuclear program in return for aid from outside the country. A statement released through the official Korean Central News Agency said:
“[North Korea’s nuclear weapons] are neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings to be presented to the place of dialogue or be put on the table of negotiations aimed at forcing [Pyongyang] to disarm itself.
“[North Korea’s] nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth.”
The meeting of the central committee also laid down a “new strategic line” that called for the creation of an even stronger nuclear arsenal and an improved economy.
The newest statement to emerge from Pyongyang arrives at a time of raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Over the past few weeks, North Korea has issued near-daily threats, including a pledge to launch a nuclear strike on the United States mainland and US military bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam. The North has also warned that the Korean Peninsula is in a “state of war.”
Pyongyang’s ire has been triggered by a number of events, including a fresh round of UN sanctions following the country’s February 12 nuclear test. North Korea has also been angered by annual US-South Korean military drills.
Although analysts believe North Korea is highly unlikely to initiate a full-scale war, some commentators have not ruled out the possibility of a smaller, more localized attack, similar to the 2010 sinking of a South Korean naval ship, the ROKS Cheonan. Seoul has vowed to respond with military force should a similar skirmish occur; polls in South Korea suggest the population was disappointed that the government did not react militarily to the Cheonan sinking.
While many analysts believe North Korea nukes will eventually be used as a bargaining chip, the latest comments show Pyongyang is determined to keep hold of its deadly arsenal, or at least push for the best possible deal in any future negotiations.
North Korea has long said the US nuclear arsenal is a threat to its existence since the 1950-53 Korean War, and justifies its own nuclear weapons program on that perceived threat.
The White House has said it takes the threats from Pyongyang seriously, but has also pointed to North Korea’s history of “bellicose rhetoric.”