The Koreas | Security | East Asia

Kim Jong Un Emphasizes Nuclear Development as North Korea’s ‘Ultimate Goal’

Kim continues to double down on the importance of the nuclear program for his country.

Kim Jong Un Emphasizes Nuclear Development as North Korea’s ‘Ultimate Goal’

This undated photo provided on Nov. 27, 2022, by the North Korean government shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and his daughter, center right, posing with soldiers who were involved in the the recent launch of the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, at an unidentified location in North Korea. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.

Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Following the successful test of its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on November 18, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un praised the work of those who contributed to the development of the missile, Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), one of the North’s main state-controlled media, reported on Sunday.

During a photo session with the contributors, Kim reiterated the importance of developing nuclear weapons as a means to protect North Korea.

“It is the truth taught by history that only when we become the strongest, not the weak, in the present world where the strength in showdown just decides victory, can we defend the present and future of the country and nation,” Kim was quoted as saying in the KCNA report.

Although every military provocation that caused civilian casualties on the Korean Peninsula has resulted from North Korea’s preemptive strikes against the South, Kim is brainwashing his people to think that nuclear weapons are necessary to keep South Korea and the United States from invading the North. According to information provided by North Korean defectors, young students in North Korea are taught that the 1950-1953 Korean War was started by the South’s invasion of the North – the opposite is true.

As the Korean War stalled with a truce in 1953, the two Koreas are technically still at war.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

“We should consolidate our greatest strength seized firmly with two hands as more absolute and irreversible one, never resting on our laurels, and continue to put spurs to the limitless bolstering of the defense capabilities,” Kim said.

Urging the scientists and technicians to keep bolstering the country’s nuclear capabilities, Kim said his country’s self-defense capability could be the strongest in the world if the contributors keep fighting to meet this overwhelming goal. He also expressed his expectation that “building the state nuclear force” and bolstering up “the nuclear war deterrent” of the country can be made under a “do-or-die struggle in the spirit of unconditional implementation” of the scientists and technicians.

On the same day that the KCNA reported on Kim Jong Un’s photo session with the officials, scientists, and workers behind the Hwasong-17 ICBM test, it also reported Kim’s order “to promote the military ranks of leading officials and scientists in the defense scientific research field.”

“Our great unremitting cause of the building the nuclear force for reliably protecting the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people through all ages is the greatest and most important revolutionary cause, and its ultimate goal is to possess the world’s most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century,” Kim said in his order.

In September, North Korea codified a new law to support its nuclear forces. Although Kim underlined that the country’s nuclear weapons are for eliminating nuclear war and securing its pride and safety during his speech, five specific conditions allowing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons were laid out, triggering the strengthened South Korea-U.S. military alliance.

Considering Kim’s latest order to his scientists and technicians and his speech in September, he seems to have concluded that nuclear development is the only way to survive. With nuclear development described by Kim as the “ultimate goal,” it indicates that he will never preemptively denuclearize his country.

Kim again made clear that he will beef up his country’s nuclear capabilities. However, the eyes of outside experts were on the young girl holding Kim’s hand and standing next to him during the photo session on Sunday: Kim Ju Ae, Kim’s daughter and believed to be his second child.

Kim Ju Ae made a surprising debut on the site of the Hwasong-17 ICBM launch on November 18, according to images released later by KCNA. She appeared in public again at the photo session reported on Sunday. Her second appearance was a bit neater compared to her first, trying to show a mature appearance as a child of the Mount Baekdu bloodline, the Kim dynasty lineage that is a basic qualification for serving as the North Korean leader. She was dressed up in a bid to look like her mother, Ri Sol Ju.

KCNA called her a “beloved daughter” of Kim Jong Un, which some saw as an indication that she will be tapped to eventually succeed her father. However, as Kim Jong Un is believed to be 38 years old, at this stage, he is still too young to consider transferring the ultimate power to his child, and his daughter is also too young to get trained as a successor. Instead, by having his daughter appear at these events, Kim might simply want to emphasize that the country’s goal to acquire the strongest nuclear weapons in the world is not just his dream but should be the generation-to-generation goal to protect the country from the United States and South Korea.

Considering the North’s male-dominated system, it could be challenging for the North Korean elites to recognize Kim’s daughter as their leader. Kim’s first child is believed to be a boy, who could be a more typical pick as the next leader of the North. There could be a different rationale for Kim to have his second daughter connected with the Hwasong-17 ICBM.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

According to South Korea’s spy agency, Kim has three children: a son and two daughters. Only Kim Ju Ae has appeared in public thus far.