The Pentagon named North Korea a "persistent threat" in its updated Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction on Thursday. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week officially named North Korea's growing nuclear arsenal a "basic law of the state." Photo by KCNA/ UPI.. | License Photo
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department identified North Korea as a "persistent threat" in a new security update, warning that the isolated regime has developed the capability to use nuclear weapons at "any stage of conflict."
The assessment came in the Pentagon's new Strategy for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, released Thursday. The CWMD document, seeing its first update since 2014, singled out China as the pacing challenge and named Russia as an acute threat. Iran and violent extremist organizations were also identified as persistent threats to obtain and use WMDs.
"The DPRK is developing and fielding mobile short-, intermediate-, and intercontinental range nuclear capabilities that place the U.S. homeland and regional Allies and partners at risk," the strategy document said.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
"Capability developments provide the DPRK with options for nuclear weapons use at any stage of conflict," the update cautioned.
North Korea has prioritized its nuclear and ballistic missile programs over the past two years, conducting weapons tests at a record-setting pace and unveiling new platforms such as an alleged nuclear tactical attack submarine earlier this month.
Last year, the North officially declared itself a nuclear state with the right to launch preemptive strikes. On Thursday, Pyongyang's rubber-stamp parliament announced that the growth of its nuclear arsenal was now a "basic law of the state."
The updated strategy comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned from a six-day visit to Russia last week, with concerns growing that Moscow and Pyongyang are working on a weapons deal.
The White House has said that Russia wants to acquire artillery and other munitions for its war in Ukraine, while North Korea is believed to be seeking advanced technology for its space and missile programs.
Pyongyang failed at two attempts to place a military spy satellite into orbit this year and has announced it will make another launch in October.
The United States and South Korea, meanwhile, have continued to strengthen their military cooperation with joint exercises, including a combined naval drill that kicked off this week.
In line with last year's National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon's updated CWMD document focuses on China as "the most comprehensive and urgent challenge to the United States."
China has "expanded and modernized nearly every aspect of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), with a focus on offsetting U.S. military advantages," the strategy said. "It is aggressively pursuing a nuclear force expansion and modernization program, including missile delivery systems designed to manage regional escalation."
Russia was named as "the most acute nuclear, biological, and chemical threat in the near-term."