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North Korea enshrines nuclear weapons in its constitution

Pyongyang has made its policy of developing strategic deterrence a "basic law of the state"

Developing nuclear weapons has become more than just a key national defense strategy for North Korea. It's now a constitutionally mandated linchpin of the country's security apparatus.

Pyongyang's nuclear force-building policy "has been made permanent as the basic law of the state, which no one is allowed to flout with anything," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a speech on Wednesday at the country's Supreme People's Assembly (SPA). 

State-run media outlet KCNA posted an English translation of the speech on Thursday. The new constitutional provision mandates that Pyongyang "deter war and protect regional and global peace by rapidly developing nuclear weapons to a higher level," Kim said.

"This is a historic event that provided a powerful political lever for remarkably strengthening the national defense capabilities, including the nuclear force, for firmly consolidating the institutional and legal foundations for guaranteeing security and protecting national interests by relying on it," he added.

The unanimous legislative adoption of the constitutional amendment comes just one year after the SPA codified Kim's nuclear weapons policy as "irreversible," including approval for preemptive use of such arms. North Korea has rejected appeals by South Korea and the US to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for promises of sanctions relief, and Kim vowed earlier this year to "exponentially" increase production of warheads. He has ramped up missile tests amid escalating tensions with Washington and Seoul.

The military alliance between the US, South Korea and Japan has emerged as the "Asian-version NATO, the root cause of war and aggression," Kim said. "This is just the worst actual threat, not threatening rhetoric or an imaginary entity." He added that with Washington operating under a "Cold War mentality" and carrying out military provocations, Pyongyang must accelerate modernization of its nuclear weapons to maintain "strategic deterrence."

Had North Korea relied on the "nuclear umbrella" of other countries, it would have been exposed to ever-increasing "blackmail" from the US and "would have certainly suffered a nuclear holocaust and total destruction long ago," Kim said. By instead arming itself, he added, Pyongyang has achieved a "proud reality" in which its nuclear program "enhances the national prestige and might and steers the world toward justice."

Kim also called for promoting solidarity with the nations that are "standing against the US and the West's strategy for hegemony." The North Korean leader traveled to Vladivostok earlier this month for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on military cooperation between the countries. No agreements were signed during Kim's visit, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.