North Korea criticizes US for submarine deal, warns against countermeasures

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea has criticized the United States’ decision to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines and warned of unspecified countermeasures if it finds out that the agreement affects the security of the North.

State media on Monday published comments from an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry official who called the deal between the United States, Britain and Australia an “extremely dangerous act. “which would destroy the balance of security in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger a” chain reaction of arms races. ” . “

The official said the North is closely examining the deal and will take appropriate action if it has “any negative effect on the security of our country.”

US President Joe Biden last week revealed a new alliance comprising Australia and Britain that would deliver an Australian fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. Biden stressed that the ships would be armed in a conventional manner.

The announcement sparked an angry backlash from France, which accused Australia of concealing its intention to withdraw from a $ 90 billion Australian ($ 66 billion) contract for majority-owned Naval Group. by the French State, for the construction of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the change on the deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific, a clear reference to China’s massive military build-up which has accelerated in recent years.

The North Korean official apparently referred to the French complaints, saying the United States was accused of stabbing the back even by its allies. The official said the North supported the view of China and other countries that the agreement would destroy “regional peace and security and the international non-proliferation system and intensify the arms race.”

“The current situation shows once again that (our) efforts to strengthen national defense capabilities on the basis of long-term perspectives should not be relaxed even a little,” the official told the central news agency. Korean.

The North has suspended its testing of nuclear bombs and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles that could strike the Americas since 2018, when leader Kim Jong Un began diplomacy with former President Donald Trump while trying to leverage his arsenal for much needed relief from sanctions.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since a second Trump-Kim meeting failed in 2019 when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling a facility aging nuclear power plant, which would only have represented a partial surrender. of its nuclear capabilities.

While maintaining its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing and ICBM, the North continued to test shorter-range weapons threatening allies of the United States, South Korea and Japan, in an apparent effort to pressure on the Biden administration on stalled diplomacy.

The North tested a new cruise missile this month that it intends to eventually arm with nuclear warheads and demonstrated a new system for launching ballistic missiles from trains.

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