North Korea has developed 'a dangerous new doctrine' for 'expanding its nuclear arsenal': report
True communist dictatorships are a rarity in 2022. The Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc communist regimes ceased to exist in the early 1990s, and the People’s Republic of China has long since forsaken Maoism in favor of a more crony capitalist brand of authoritarianism.
But North Korea remains a communist dictatorship in the true sense, and leader Kim Jong Un rules the country with an iron fist. Under Jong Un’s watch, the country has kept building its nuclear arsenal. And an article published by Foreign Policy on December 8 examines his possible motivations for using them in the future. The article was written by Adam Mount (a senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists’ Defense Posture Project), and Jungsup Kim (a former deputy minister for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense).
“2022’s most alarming development is not about what North Korea could use to deliver a nuclear warhead, but when and why it plans to do it,” Mount and Jungsup explain. “In recent months, North Korean leaders have articulated a dangerous new doctrine for its expanding tactical nuclear arsenal. Unlike its strategic intercontinental missiles, which are probably a last resort to prevent regime change, the Kim family said its tactical weapons could be used at the outset of conflict to fight and win a limited war on the Korean Peninsula.”
Mount and Jungsup go on to lay out some specific reasons why North Korea might “use a nuclear weapon.”
“Most experts fall into two camps,” they note. “The first theory warns that the regime could use nuclear weapons to retaliate against the U.S. homeland if it believed it was facing an existential attack, either from an allied invasion or an attack on Kim. The second theory is that North Korea might issue nuclear threats as part of an attack to forcibly reunify the peninsula, trying to blackmail South Korea into surrendering. In either case, the United States and South Korea would move to destroy North Korea’s nuclear forces and leadership before they can be launched and end the regime.”
Mount and Jungsup continue, “In recent months, North Korea has signaled that it is pursuing a third doctrine. In April, Kim said his nuclear forces will ‘never be confined to the single mission of war deterrent.” His sister, (Kim Yo-Jong) and possible successor wrote, ‘(At) the outset of war, completely dampen the enemy’s war spirits, prevent protracted hostilities and preserve one’s own military muscle.’ In other words, Pyongyang now envisions its nuclear weapons as useful not only for retaliation against an attack, but for winning a limited conflict.”
According to Mount and Jungsup, North Korea views its nuclear program “as part of its deterrence posture.”
“It says North Korea can only deter an allied attack if it can win the conflict, and the only way it can win one might be early nuclear use,” they observe. “But Washington and Seoul will worry that the doctrine, with its emphasis on coercion and war termination, is designed to help Pyongyang win conflicts that it starts.”
Mount and Jungsup add, “To deter North Korea from using its tactical nuclear arsenal, Washington and Seoul will have to adapt their posture and plans. The alliance cannot trust that existing concepts or the U.S. strategic arsenal can manage the escalation risks posed by Pyongyang’s new doctrine. The most important capabilities are the conventional forces that defend South Korea from attack and the political cohesion that signals that the regime cannot divide the alliance.”
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