North Korea's rubber-stamp legislature has enshrined the country's status as a nuclear weapons power in the constitution, state media reported Thursday.
"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," leader Kim Jong Un said at a meeting of the State People's Assembly that was held Tuesday and Wednesday, the KCNA news agency said.
DPRK is the acronym for the country's formal name.
North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year and relations with South Korea and the United States are very tense, amid fears that Pyongyang might conducts its first nuclear test since 2017. It has conducted six in all since 2006.
A year ago the assembly passed a law declaring North Korea to be a nuclear weapons state and Kim said this status was "irreversible." That new law also allowed for the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.
Now, further dimming hopes for denuclearisation, the assembly has gone further by stipulating that nuclear weapons status in the constitution itself.
"This is a historic event that provided a powerful political lever for remarkably strengthening the national defense capabilities," Kim said, according to KCNA.
Kim also said the United States, South Korea and Japan had formed a "triangular military alliance" and this "finally resulted in the emergence of the 'Asian-version NATO', the root cause of war and aggression."
"This is just the worst actual threat, not threatening rhetoric or an imaginary entity," Kim said.
North Korea has conducted a string of banned weapons tests so far this year, the last one involving two short-range ballistic missiles on September 13 as Kim prepared to travel to Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin.
It also last month failed in its second attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit.
South Korea and the United States have ramped up defence cooperation in response, staging joint exercises as well as naval drills with Japan.
Relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point in years, and diplomacy is stalled after failed attempts to discuss Pyongyang's denuclearisation.
On September 2, North Korea staged a "simulated tactical nuclear attack" drill with mock atomic warheads attached to two long-range cruise missiles that were test-fired into the ocean, KCNA reported.
It said the operation was a "counteraction drill" in response to joint military activity by US and South Korean forces that the agency said had escalated tensions in the region.
Kim's visit to Russia -- his first abroad since the coronavirus pandemic -- fanned Western fears that Moscow and Pyongyang will defy sanctions and strike an arms deal.