From the Overview: "North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and high-level diplomatic efforts. Recent ballistic missile tests and military parades suggest that North Korea is continuing to build a nuclear warfighting capability designed to evade regional ballistic missile defenses. Such an approach likely reinforces a deterrence and coercive diplomacy strategy--lending more credibility as it demonstrates capability--but it also raises questions about crisis stability and escalation control. Congress may choose to examine U.S. policy in light of these advances. According to the U.S. intelligence community's 2021 annual threat assessment, North Korean leaders view nuclear weapons as 'the ultimate deterrent against foreign intervention.' At the January 2021 North Korean Workers' Party Conference, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hailed the 'status of our state as a nuclear weapons state' and praised its 'powerful and reliable strategic deterrent.' Kim Jong-un has said that 'nuclear weapons of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] can be used only by a final order of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army [Kim Jong-un] to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.'"
CRS In Focus, IF10472
Congressional Research Service: https://crsreports.congress.gov/