China criticized the bolstering of anti-missile defenses against North Korea, hours after the U.S. reaffirmed a commitment to strengthen its alliance with South Korea and deter Kim Jong Un’s regime from its nuclear ambitions.
“Intensifying anti-missile deployment and military alliances will only intensify antagonism and will not help resolve the issue,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters today in Beijing. “China hopes the relevant parties can move ahead with regional peace and stability in mind and act prudently on the anti-missile issue in a responsible manner.”
While Hong didn’t mention the U.S., the comments came four days after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he will shift $1 billion from a European missile shield to install 14 additional interceptors in Alaska against threats by Iran and North Korea. Tensions on the Korean peninsula are at the highest since at least 2010, with the North warning of nuclear attacks and withdrawing from a 1953 truce that ended the Korean War.
The missile defense reconfiguration follows an assessment by American intelligence agencies that North Korea’s nuclear weapons pose a “serious threat” to the U.S. and its allies. At the same time, the Pentagon is facing about $46 billion in budget cuts this fiscal year unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter today downplayed the impact of the spending reductions during a visit to Seoul, saying the administration has resources to accomplish its “historic priority” of rebalancing to Asia “no matter what happens.” He said the U.S. is committed to keep ahead of progress in North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missile development.
A U.S. B-52 bomber, which is able to carry nuclear and other precision-guided weapons, will make a flight over the Korean peninsula tomorrow, Carter said.
While such flights are routine they may attract further attention as South Korea and the U.S. continue with their annual “Key Resolve” exercise, which began March 11. A North Korean military unit fired short-range missiles into the sea off the nation’s east coast, South Korea’s Yonhap News reported March 15, citing an unnamed military person in Seoul.
North Korea fired a long-range missile in December and detonated a nuclear device in February, prompting tougher U.S.- led action at the United Nations earlier in March. China, the North’s neighbor, closest ally and biggest trading partner, joined that move, having criticized Pyongyang for its February nuclear test.
The latest UN sanctions have prompted a wave of rhetoric and threats from North Korea.
“The U.S. is seriously mistaken if it thinks that the DPRK had access to nukes as a bargaining chip,” an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said March 16 in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has “no idea of negotiating with the U.S. unless it rolls back its hostile policy,” according to the statement.
DPRK stands for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
There’s no evidence now that North Korea has nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to target the U.S. or South Korea. There’s also no public information on whether North Korea has been able to covertly advance beyond testing to weaponizing a nuclear device.
In addition to deploying the 14 additional interceptors, Hagel reaffirmed the U.S. pledge to deploy in Japan a second TPY-2 missile defense radar. to James Miller, under secretary of defense for policy.
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