Despite facing UN Security Council sanctions and diplomatic efforts, North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Recent ballistic missile tests and military parades suggest that North Korea is working to create a nuclear warfighting capability that would evade regional ballistic missile defenses. This approach may strengthen its deterrence and coercive diplomacy strategy, but it also raises concerns about crisis stability and escalation control.
Congress may choose to review U.S. policy in light of these developments. According to the U.S. intelligence community’s 2022 annual threat assessment, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sees nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as a means of maintaining his rule in North Korea and believes that over time he will gain international acceptance as a nuclear power. United States policy and UN resolutions call for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
In a speech on September 9, 2022, Kim Jong-un rejected denuclearization talks and stated that the country would continue developing its “nuclear power.” The Supreme People’s Assembly passed a law that reportedly expands the conditions under which North Korea would use nuclear weapons to include possible first use in situations that threaten the regime’s survival. The Biden Administration’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review stated that “Any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its Allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime.”