China warns US, against ‘provoking confrontation’ with North Korea

BEIJING: China warned Washing­ton and Seoul against “provoking confrontation” with North Korea, after President Joe Biden and his South Korean counterpart said Pyong­yang would face the “end” of its leadership if it uses its nuclear arsenal.

“All parties should face up to the crux of the (Korean) peninsula issue and play a constructive role in promoting a peaceful settlement of the issue,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. She urged against “deliberately stirring up tensions, provoking confrontation and playing up threats”.

At a summit in Washington, Biden and Yoon Suk Yeol made clear that if the isolated dictatorship in North Korea attacked the South or the United States, the response would be devastating.

The two sides also agreed that the US security shield for South Korea would be strengthened in the face of the nuclear-armed North’s missile tests. Beijing condemned that decision on Thursday, saying Washington “ignores regional security and insists on exploiting the peninsula issue to create tension.”

“What the US is doing … provokes confrontation between camps, undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries,” Mao said.

US moves, she added, “aggravate tensions on the peninsula, undermine regional peace and stability, and run counter to the goal of denuclearisation on the peninsula.”

For the first time since the 1980s, a US Navy nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) will visit South Korea to help demonstrate Washington’s resolve to protect the country from a North Korean attack.

N-missile submarine visit

The visit was announced in a joint declaration during a summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden in Washington on Wednesday.

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Because US SSBNs rely on secrecy and stealth to ensure their survival and preserve their ability to launch nuclear missiles during a war, they rarely make public stops in foreign ports.

“That could be a huge pressure on North Korea, because usually they don’t share where those submarines are,” said Moon Keun-sik, a retired South Korean submarine captain and squadron leader.

The United States has pledged to deploy more so-called “strategic assets” such as aircraft carriers, submarines, and long-range bombers to South Korea to deter North Korea, which has developed increasingly powerful missiles that can hit targets from South Korea to the mainland United States.

The submarine visit is also seen as a way to reassure South Korea and quell talk in Seoul of developing homegrown nuclear weapons.

“If a US SSBN visits and docks in South Korea, that is very unusual and symbolic … the US wants to show it is going for stronger deterrence in a visible way and to calm South Koreans’ concerns,” Choi Il, another retired South Korean submarine captain, said.

Pyongyang has condemned the recent deployment of US aircraft carriers and joint South Korea-US military drills as proof of the allies’ hostile intent.

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