SEOUL – South Korea cautioned North Korea on Tuesday that using nuclear weapons would put it on a “road of self-destruction,” using unusually severe rhetoric just days after North Korea passed a new legislation allowing it to use nuclear weapons preemptively.
North Korea is likely to be enraged by South Korean language, as Seoul normally avoids using such strong remarks in order to prevent inflaming tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
According to South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the legislation will only further isolate North Korea and force Seoul and Washington to “further bolster their deterrence and reaction capacities.”
South Korea will sharply increase its own preemptive attack, missile defense, and massive retaliation capabilities in order to persuade North Korea not to use its nuclear weapons, according to the ministry, while seeking a greater US security commitment to defend its ally South Korea with all available capabilities, including nuclear weapons.
“We warn that if the North Korean regime tries to use nuclear weapons, it would face an overwhelming response from the South Korea-US military alliance and will end up on the path to self-destruction,” Moon Hong Sik, an acting ministry spokesperson, told reporters.
North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament passed legislation overseeing its nuclear arsenal last week. The legislation would authorize North Korea to use its nuclear weapons in the event of an impending invasion or to avert an unspecified “catastrophic calamity” for its people.
The broad wording aroused fears that the regulations are primarily intended to provide a legal foundation for using nuclear weapons to frighten its adversaries into making concessions amid long-stalled talks over its weapons arsenal.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated during the parliament meeting that his country will never surrender the nuclear weapons it requires to counter US threats. He accused the US of attempting to weaken the North’s defenses and, as a result, bring his government down.
This year, Kim has conducted a record number of nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests, targeting both the US mainland and South Korea. For months, US and South Korean officials have predicted that North Korea will conduct its first nuclear test in five years.
Since assuming office in May, South Korea’s new conservative government, led by President Yoon Suk Yeol, has vowed it will be harder on North Korean provocations while simultaneously offering substantial aid packages if the North denuclearizes. North Korea has flatly rejected the aid-for-disarmament deal and hurled vulgar insults at the Yoon administration.
The usage of phrases like “self-destruction” in Seoul is unusual, but it is not the first time. When South Korea was led by another conservative, Park Geun-hye, from 2013 to 2017, her administration warned North Korea that its provocations would cause it to vanish or self-destruct, while the North launched a series of missile and nuclear tests.
Moon Jae-in, the liberal president who lasted from 2017 to this year, advocated for more peace between the Koreas. He was praised with facilitating the now-stalled nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington, but he was also chastised for allowing Kim Jong Un to buy time to perfect weapons technology while enjoying heightened status on the global arena.