North Korea has passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state, state news agency KCNA reported.

The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, called the decision “irreversible” and ruled out the possibility of any negotiations on denuclearization. The law also enshrines the country’s right to use a pre-emptive nuclear strike to protect itself. Despite the sanctions that weigh on the Asian nation, Pyongyang carried out six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017. The country has continued to advance its military capacity, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, posing a threat to its neighbors and even placing the continental US within its attack range.

Kim’s government conducted long-range missile launches and nuclear tests in 2019 following two summits between the North Korean leader and then-US President Donald Trump.

Stagnant conversations

Talks between the two countries have since stalled. Although the Joe Biden administration has indicated that he is willing to talk to Pyongyang, he has not said whether the US president will meet with Kim.

The White House has also reported in recent months that its attempts to contact Pyongyang and offers of help for North Korea’s covid pandemic have so far gone unanswered.

The US revised its policy on North Korea last year, reiterating that its goal is the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula.

Biden said he would apply a mix of diplomacy and “severe deterrence.” Kim responded by saying his country should prepare for both “dialogue and confrontation.”

Meanwhile, tensions on the Korean peninsula have spiked this year with Pyongyang launching a record number of ballistic missiles.

South Korea and the US responded with missile tests and the largest joint military exercises on the peninsula in years.

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