Pentagon's strategy document calls N.Korea 'persistent threat'

Washington, Sep 29 (IANS): The US Department of Defense has labelled North Korea as a "persistent threat" in an updated key security document, warning that its military capability advancements would give the recalcitrant regime options to use nuclear arms "at any stage of conflict".

The Pentagon on Thursday published the first Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) since 2014, describing China as the "pacing challenge", Russia as an "acute threat" and the North and Iran as "persistent threats", Yonhap news agency reported.

"Capability developments provide the DPRK with options for nuclear weapons use at any stage of conflict," the document read. "The DPRK is developing and fielding mobile short-, intermediate-, and intercontinental-range nuclear capabilities that place the US homeland and regional Allies and partners at risk."

DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The document noted North Korea's enactment of a law last year on its nuclear armament, stressing that the country has prioritized its nuclear weapons arsenal and ballistic missile force.

"The DPRK enacted a law in 2022 reaffirming its self-proclaimed status as a nuclear power, establishing conditions for nuclear use, and rejecting denuclearization," it said.

"The law articulates that the DPRK will use nuclear weapons if it perceives an impending nuclear attack; if the Kim regime, people, or the state's existence were threatened; or as an offensive war option," it added.

The document also said that the North's chemical and biological weapons capabilities remain a threat as it may use such weapons in the event of a conflict.

"The DPRK maintains up to several thousand metric tons of chemical warfare agents and the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents," it said. "The DPRK chemical employment methods include artillery, ballistic missiles, and unconventional forces."

The Pentagon published the last such WMD document in 2014, which focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations and managing risks emanating from hostile, fragile, or failed states and safe havens.

"The risk of the United States or its allies and partners facing a military confrontation that includes chemical, biological, radiological, and/or nuclear weapons has increased since 2014," it assessed.

In the document, the Pentagon cast China as the "most comprehensive and urgent" challenge to the U.S.

"The PRC has expanded and modernized nearly every aspect of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), with a focus on offsetting U.S. military advantages," the document read, referring to China by its official name, the People's Republic of China.

"It is aggressively pursuing a nuclear force expansion and modernization program, including missile delivery systems designed to manage regional escalation," it added.

The department described Russia as posing the "most acute" nuclear, biological, and chemical threat in the near-term and will continue to retain WMD capabilities in the medium and long term.



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Title: Pentagon's strategy document calls N.Korea 'persistent threat'

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