North Korea blasts 'extremely dangerous' US submarine deal

Official warns of unspecified counter-measures if agreement is found to affect Pyongyang's security

Australia has decided to invest in US nuclear-powered submarines and dump its contract with France to build diesel-electric submarines because of a changed strategic environment. AP
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North Korea has called a US decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia an extremely dangerous act.

An unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry official said the arrangement between the US, Britain and Australia could result in unspecified counter-measures if the deal was found to affect the country's security.

The official said the arrangement could destroy the security balance in the Asia-Pacific and trigger a “chain reaction of arms races", according to state media on Monday.

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

US President Joe Biden announced last week a new alliance including Australia and Britain that would deliver Canberra a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. Mr Biden said the vessels would be conventionally armed.

The announcement triggered an angry reaction from France, which accused Australia of concealing its intentions to back out of a 90 billion Australian dollar ($66 billion) contract for French majority state-owned Naval Group to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines.

Australian 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.

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

Nuclear negotiations stalled

“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 the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has suspended its testing of nuclear bombs and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles that could hit the US mainland since 2018 when leader Kim Jong-un initiated diplomacy with former President Donald Trump while attempting to leverage his arsenal for badly needed sanctions relief.

Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the collapse of a second Trump-Kim meeting in 2019, when the US rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an ageing nuclear facility, which would have amounted to only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

While maintaining its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and ICBM 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.

The country 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.

Updated: September 20, 2021, 9:33 AM