North Korea has accused the United States of raising military tensions with China through its “reckless” backing of Taiwan, and said the growing US military presence in the region constitutes a potential threat.
In comments carried by state media, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong-ho criticised the United States for sending warships through the Taiwan Strait and providing Taiwan with upgraded weapons systems and military training.
The blast comes on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s break with the weighed and diplomatic language of the past by declaring that America would take up arms to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Previous presidents studiously avoided being so specific, limiting their remarks to promises of “support”, not necessarily boots-on-the-ground reinforcements, for the besieged island nation in the event of hostilities.
The “indiscreet meddling” in issues regarding Taiwan, which Pyongyang sees as entirely a Chinese internal affair, threatens to touch off a “delicate situation on the Korean Peninsula”, the minister is quoted as saying.
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and although it maintains formal diplomatic relations only with Beijing, the US remains committed by law to ensure Taiwan can defend itself from outside threats.
Until President Biden put his own slant on the doctrine, this was taken to mean Taiwan coulod count on being supplied with US weaponry.
The Australian connection
North Korea has increasingly criticised Washington’s broader security role in the Asia Pacific amid intensifying competition with China, Pyongyang’s major ally and economic lifeline.
Last month, North Korea threatened unspecified countermeasures following the Biden administration’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.
“It is a well-known fact that the US troops and its military bases in (South Korea) are in use to put pressure on China and that the huge forces of the US and its satellite states, which are being concentrated near Taiwan, can be committed to a military operation targeting the DPRK at any time,” Pak said, using the abbreviation of the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He said the increasing military presence of US-led “hostile forces” in the region was based on a “lame assertion” China and North Korea would cause trouble in Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula.
“This reality proves that the US is in its bid to stifle our country and China, both socialist countries, in order to hold on to its supremacy,” Pak said.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for more than two years over the issue of relaxing crippling US-led sanctions in return for steps by North Korea to wind-down its nuclear weapons program.
Ending a months-long lull in September, Pyongyang has been ramping up its missile tests while making conditional peace offers to Seoul, reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to try to get what it wants from the United States.
Sung Kim, Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, is expected to arrive in South Korea on Saturday for talks with allies on reviving negotiations with Pyongyang.