North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can be seen speaking at the fourth plenary meeting of the Eighth Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee. (KCNA/Yonhap News)

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more and more party cadres in North Korea say Pyongyang can never abandon its nuclear weapons. North Korea is apparently growing more attached to its nuclear arsenal since the crisis in Ukraine.

A high-ranking source in North Korea told Daily NK on Thursday that the war never would have happened if Ukraine had nuclear weapons. He said the Ukraine crisis demonstrates that nuclear weaponry makes it difficult for one country to invade another. 

Another high-ranking source said only nuclear weaponry prevents foreign invasions, and that ultimately, protecting the North Korean regime lies not with receiving economic aid, but with strengthening the nation’s independent national defense.

The consensus among high-ranking North Korean cadres is reportedly that the Ukraine crisis began when Kiev abandoned its nuclear arsenal.

Ukraine became a member of the nuclear club when it inherited Soviet nuclear weapons deployed on Ukrainian territory as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

However, Ukraine returned its nuclear weapons to Russia and joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in return for security guarantees and economic aid when it signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994.

The nuclear weapons based in Ukraine were Soviet from the very beginning. Kiev had no capacity to maintain them.

Nevertheless, high-ranking cadres in North Korea believe that hegemonic tensions between the United States and Russia intensified in Ukraine because Ukraine abandoned its nuclear weapons.

North Korean high-ranking cadres appear to be linking the crisis in Ukraine with the imperatives of nuclear armament due to the political propaganda and education they have received. 

According to one of the high-ranking sources, during a regular political lecture for cadres, North Korean authorities blamed “US hegemony” for igniting the crisis in Ukraine.

The lecture blamed the crisis solely on hegemonic policies by the US and the West, without mentioning North Korea’s own position regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For the North Korean authorities, who have long relied on “anti-imperialism” as a means of social unity and political value, informing cadres and ordinary people that Russia had, in fact, invaded Ukraine — and expressing a position regarding said invasion — is no easy task.

Because of this, Pyongyang appears to be shifting blame for the crisis on to the US and the West, even as it supports its ally Russia.

In fact, North Korea’s foreign ministry released an official position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 28. In the statement, it said, “The root cause of the Ukraine crisis totally lies in the hegemonic policy of the S and the West, which enforce themselves in high-handedness and abuse of power against other countries.”

Moreover, North Korea voted against the Mar. 2 resolution at the United Nations calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, North Korea reportedly plans to use Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to actively promote to cadres why Pyongyang is “justified” in possessing nuclear weapons.

The authorities will expand political and ideological education to blame the Ukraine crisis on the United States and justify North Korea’s own possession of nuclear weapons, not only among party and foreign ministry cadres, but also at the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security.

One of the high-ranking sources said he thinks political lectures regarding Ukraine will soon begin for party officials, as well as at the Ministry of State Security and Ministry of Social Security.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to