North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un told a rare ruling party congress that North Korea was a “responsible” nuclear weapons state, with a no first-use policy and a commitment to non-proliferation.
Speaking to thousands of delegates gathered for the first Workers’ Party congress in more than 35 years, Kim also announced a new 5-year plan to boost the impoverished country’s moribund economy and “revitalize” people’s lifestyles, AFP reported.
His remarks, published by state media Sunday, came amid growing concerns that the North might be on the verge of conducting a fifth nuclear test.
Kim had opened the congress with a defiant defense of the North’s nuclear weapons program, praising the “magnificent … and thrilling” test of what Pyongyang claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6.
But his report to the conclave Saturday stressed that North Korea was also a “responsible nuclear weapons state” with an arsenal built for deterrence.
“Our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes,” he said.
Kim also vowed that Pyongyang would “faithfully fulfill” its non-proliferation obligations and push for global denuclearization.
North Korea withdrew from the global Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 – the first signatory country to ever do so.
Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons doctrine has always been a complex mix of self-defense, deterrence and threat.
At the time of its first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea stressed that it would “never use nuclear weapons first.”
And when it codified its nuclear program in North Korea law in April 2013, it stated that nuclear weapons could only be used to repel invasion or attack by another nuclear power.
But in recent years, and especially in the wake of tough UN sanctions imposed over its fourth test in January, it has issued repeated warnings of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.
In his address, Kim also said North Korea would seek to improve and normalize relations with previously “hostile” countries.
There has been speculation that, in the wake of the party congress, Pyongyang might renew its push for talks with Washington.
Kim has made it clear that the future of the North’s nuclear weapons program is non-negotiable.
Concern that the North might be readying a fifth nuclear test was fueled Saturday by recent satellite imagery of activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast of the country.