Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

North Korea’s nuclear fail-safe

By Megan DuBois

16 Sep 2022 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Without naming any countries or successors, Kim Jong un has made it clear that nuclear strike would be immediate if North Korea's nuclear forces are in danger or he is attacked.

Last week, North Korea announced its most significant update to its nuclear weapons law in almost a decade, clarifying the nuclear chain of command in the event that Kim Jong Un kicks the bucket before he can press the button. 

The law offers little new for longtime North Korea watchers, but it does offer insight into how Pyongyang seeks to ensure deterrence if its supreme leader were to be killed by an adversary’s attack. “In case the command and control system over the state nuclear forces is placed in danger owing to an attack by hostile forces,” the new policy reads, “a nuclear strike shall be launched automatically and immediately to destroy the hostile forces including the starting point of provocation and the command according to the operation plan decided in advance.” 

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