During the 67th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, Kim Jong Un made several comments about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. According to Al Jazeera, the leader claimed that because of their development of nuclear weapons “there won’t be any war on this land again, and our country’s safety and future will be firmly guaranteed forever.” Although sanctions on the country have helped stunt economic growth recently, up until the past year, he also claimed that their nuclear deterrent would be adequate to deal with “high-intensity pressure and military threats from imperialist and hostile forces.”
Kim Jong Un’s comments coincide with a report to the United Nations Security Council citing that various nations believe North Korea has developed nuclear weapons. The Guardian reports that while the North has not conducted nuclear tests for nearly three years, the countries in the report believe that they had continued a nuclear programme in order to further improve their nuclear capabilities. The report claimed in one part that they could potentially “develop miniaturisation… improvements such as penetration packages or… develop multiple warhead systems.” In a similar vein, the report asserted that their nuclear programme is probably on-going and successful, as no outside witnesses verified the complete destruction of North Korean testing sites mandated by the Trump-Kim Summits in 2018.
At the very least, if anyone had concerns about North Korea having nuclear weapons, it would seem there is a strong certainty that the heavily sanctioned nation has them now. While Kim Jong Un’s claims of peace should be treated with skepticism given how much suffering has occurred there for well over 67 years, the UN report may be overly concerned about North Korea’s quest for nukes.
North Korea’s leadership has not respected the human rights their people deserve. However, the general international sanctions on the country and resulting suffering has no doubt significantly contributed to their desire to develop nuclear capabilities. Whether that coerces the outside world to treat them differently could impact North Korea’s decision to pursue further development for weapons of mass-destruction in the future. This development is not a good thing for Eastern Asia or the rest of the world. More weapons being forged, large in their potential for destruction or for ‘peaceful deterrence,’ is never a good outcome. However, it is clear that relations must change between North Korea, its neighbors, and the world, in order to clarify how the troubled nation can survive into the future with all of its problems and concerns.
On a side note, it has been 75 years since the first and only uses of nuclear weapons at the ‘end’ of the Second World War. While that decision has been defended as necessary, given the circumstances that enshroud Eastern Asia then, it would be evil now to fight there over the possession of such destructive weapons and risk their use too.
While the world may look no more mature than what it was a century ago, diplomacy has a real and positive chance to change the situation on the Korean peninsula for the better. It would be better if the Koreas could sort out their problems together, as they have showed more interest in recent years, doing so with various successes and failures. However, where necessary other nations should engage in dialogue and show what kind of place the North could be if it rejected authoritarian governance and fear. Ideally it would be better if no nations, benevolent or otherwise, have nukes, but breaking down the barriers to interaction and communication is certainly the best place to start in bringing about a solution to this ever growing geopolitical nightmare.