North Korea warns AUKUS nuclear submarine pact could trigger 'nuclear arms race'

© Associated Press North Korea says the AUKUS pact could upset the strategic balance in the Indo-Pacific.

North Korea has slammed a new security pact between Australia, the US and the UK as “extremely undesirable and dangerous”, warning it could trigger a “nuclear arms race” in the region.

Under the defence pact announced last week, known as AUKUS, the US will supply Australia with nuclear submarines, adding Australia to a small group of countries equipped with that military capability.

“These are extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race,” an unidentified foreign ministry official told North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The official said North Korea was closely examining the deal and would proceed with “corresponding counteraction” if it has “even the smallest negative effect on our country’s safety”.

US President Joe Biden revealed last week that the US would deliver a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy.

Mr Biden stressed the submarines would be conventionally armed and will not be equipped with nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the switch on a deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific, a clear reference to China’s massive military build-up that has gained pace in recent years.

Allies and enemies upset by AUKUS

The official said North Korea supports the views of China and other countries that the deal would destroy “regional peace and security and the international non-proliferation system and intensify arms races”.

“The current situation shows once again that [our] efforts to bolster national defence capabilities based on long-term perspectives should not be eased by even a bit,” the official told KCNA.

The announcement triggered an angry reaction from France, which accused Australia of concealing its intentions to back out of a $90 billion contract for French majority state-owned Naval Group to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

France recalled its ambassadors to both Australia and the US as a result of the pact.

The North Korean official made an apparent reference to the French complaints, saying that the United States was being accused of back-stabbing even by its allies.

“The US double-dealing attitude … erodes the universally accepted international norm and order and seriously threatens the world peace and stability,” the spokesman said.

North Korea back to testing missiles

North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since 2017 and suspended testing of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles that could hit the US mainland in 2018, when leader Kim Jong Un initiated diplomacy with former President Donald Trump.

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the collapse of a second Trump-Kim meeting in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an ageing nuclear facility.

While maintaining its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, North Korea has continued testing shorter-range weapons threatening US allies South Korea and Japan in an apparent effort to pressure the Biden administration over the stalled diplomacy.

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

ABC/wires


Video: North and South Korea conduct duelling missile tests as arms race heats up (Reuters)

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