Is Pyongyang’s no-first-use pledge new stance?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-8 23:58:01

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said during the seventh Workers' Party congress that his country is a "responsible nuclear state that, as we made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to invade on our sovereignty," noting that Pyongyang will "sincerely fulfill its duties for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and work to realize the denuclearization of the world," the Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday. Kim also expressed his hope that North Korea's relationships with Washington and Seoul would be relaxed.

This is considered the very first time that Pyongyang has stated that it would not strike first. Previously, North Korea has more than once claimed it would launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea, or wipe the US off the face of the planet. Does the new statement this time herald a change in Pyongyang's attitude?

To begin with, Kim's declaration was made from the perspective that North Korea is now a nuclear state. But the UN Security Council is asking Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. The international community has not yet acknowledged North Korea as a nuclear nation, so therefore the latter's attitude has not changed, and neither has its biggest contradiction with the outside world been resolved.

Pyongyang's relaxed manner might buffer the current touch-and-go tensions. The attitudes from the US and South Korea will become critical next. How they treat Pyongyang's new statement and whether they will be willing to create a temporary cushion based on it will influence the way each party plays in the game over the North Korean nuclear issue.

International society is firmly against Pyongyang's nuclear program. This attitude is very stable and Washington and Seoul have never eased their hard-line stance. The external world believes that North Korea is playing a different card to test its effectiveness, and its ultimate goal is to legitimize its nuclear development.

Major countries will not change their stance to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state. As long as Pyongyang resists giving up its nuclear weapons, normalizing relations with the outside world will be highly unlikely.

Nuclear weapons today are not intended for actual use, but rather are a means of strategic deterrence. Nevertheless, the truth is that both the US and South Korea have been constantly upgrading their military preparation for strikes against Pyongyang given the latter's nuclear development. So far, there is no sign of them being intimidated.

On the other hand, neither has Washington and Seoul frightened Pyongyang. The crazy logic of contemporary international politics has become a game of who will blink first.

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