The announcement comes on the heels of North Korea confirming the release of Travis King, a US army soldier who had sprinted to the country while on a tour at the border it shares with neighbour South Korea.
The North’s state-run KCNA news agency on Thursday quoted Mr Kim as announcing its “nuclear force-building policy”. The country’s rubber stamp parliament on Wednesday also unanimously approved a new clause in the constitution to include the nuclear weapons expansion programme to “ensure the country’s right to existence and development, deter war and protect regional and global peace by rapidly developing nuclear weapons to a higher level”, as per KCNA.
“The DPRK’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,” Mr Kim said, while addressing the parliament as he referred to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Mr Kim went on to stress “the need to push ahead with the work for exponentially boosting the production of nuclear weapons and diversifying the nuclear strike means and deploying them in different services”.
He made the comments during a two-day session of the parliament, called The Supreme People’s Assembly, that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This comes as Mr Kim called for his country to play a larger role in a coalition of nations confronting the US in what he called a “new Cold War”.
He said US military drills and deployment of strategic assets in the region, along with South Korea and Japan, were extreme provocations and accused them of creating the “Asian version of Nato, the root cause of war and aggression”.
“This is just the worst actual threat, not threatening rhetoric or an imaginary entity,” he said.
KCNA’s reports on Mr Kim’s comments come a day after North Korea confirmed the release of Mr King, who is now being flown back to America two months after his sprint across the heavily fortified border into the North.
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula are at their highest level in years as North Korea has test fired more than 100 missiles since the start of 2022 and the US has expanded its military exercises with its Asian allies in tit-for-tat responses.
Responding to the North’s revised constitution, South Korea’s unification ministry said it showed Pyongyang’s “strong will” not to abandon its nuclear programme.
“We once again stress that North Korea will face an end of its regime if it uses nuclear weapons,” it warned in a statement.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile development poses threats to peace and safety of our country and the international community, and can never be tolerated,” said Japanese chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
The amendment comes a year after North Korea officially enshrined in law the right to use preemptive nuclear strikes to protect itself, a move Mr Kim had said would make its nuclear status “irreversible”.
With the North gradually ending its pandemic lockdown, Mr Kim has been actively boosting partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as well, as he attempts to break out of diplomatic isolation and join a united front against Washington.
He returned home last week from a trip to Russia during which he and Mr Putin agreed to boost military and economic cooperation.
US and South Korean officials have expressed concern that Pyongyang could be seeking technological help for its nuclear and missile programmes while Moscow tries to acquire ammunition from the North to supplement its dwindling stocks for the war in Ukraine.
Analysts said having the nuclear policy written into the constitution is a symbolic move, declaring the North’s intention to have a permanent nuclear force that it would not negotiate over.
“The new Cold War in the Northeast Asia region and military tensions on the Korean peninsula will intensify,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Additional reporting by agencies