Risk Of Nuclear War Increases As North Korea Pushes For Massive Expansion Of Nuclear Arsenal

Dr. E.C. Beuck

Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North KoreaPhoto byBlue House (Republic of Korea) via Wikimedia Commons
It is barely the start of 2023 and already concerns are increasing again about North Korea. This past weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered an “exponential” expansion of his country’s nuclear arsenal, as well as the development of more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the mainland of the United States, all on the heels of another weapons launch. Unfortunately this move is not unexpected for those focused on the military policies of North Korea, as Kim has in the past repeatedly vowed to boost the quality and quantity of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in order to counter what he calls hostility from the United States. Likely these latest tests and efforts at expanding his nuclear arsenal are a gambit by Kim to demonstrate his potential threat and thus win greater concessions for his regime and country in the future.

Among the stated goals put forward by Kim during a recent meeting on state objectives is a push to mass produce battlefield tactical nuclear weapons that will be used to target South Korea. These moves come as Kim claims that efforts at isolating North Korea from the international community mean increasing his country’s military strength is necessary for the future. Given previous announcements by North Korea of claiming to have successfully completing important tests necessary to develop a new strategic weapon, as well as a spy satellite, it is unlikely the rhetoric coming out of North Korea is simply empty words.

Most worrying, however, is how these policy goals for Kim come after the passage of a new law in North Korea last year in which preemptive use of nuclear weapons was authorized for a wide range of situations, and threats were made that they might well use their nuclear weapons first.

For their part, the Defense Ministry of South Korea has warned that any attempt by North Korea to use nuclear weapons will lead to the end of the Kim regime in North Korea, which echoes previous warnings made by the military of the United States in response to Kim’s policies. Diplomats of South Korea, Japan, and the United States have all agreed to respond with cooperation to provocations coming from North Korea, yet also have reaffirmed that they are still open to dialogue with North Korea. Regardless, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has reiterated that its commitments to defend South Korea and Japan “remain ironclad.” Given the potential for a conflict to spiral out of control, we can only hope that diplomacy triumphs and North Korea is deterred from following through with its threats of nuclear escalation.

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Holding a PhD in Political Science, I write about current events and on political topics related to international relations, international law, conflict both between and within states, and the interactions between technology and politics.

Washington, DC

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