Beijing says American interference could only make matters worse in sabre-rattling between Seoul and Pyongyang
(the Guardian) – China has said that US plans to bolster missile defences in response to provocations by North Korea would only intensify antagonism, and urged Washington to act prudently.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, made the comments at a daily news briefing.
He said: “Actions such as strengthening anti-missile [defences]will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem.
“China hopes the relevant country will proceed on the basis of peace and stability, adopt a responsible attitude and act prudently.”
The Pentagon said the US had informed China, North Korea’s neighbour and closest ally, of its decision to add more interceptors but declined to characterise Beijing’s reaction.
The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, announced plans on Friday to bolster American missile defences in response to “irresponsible and reckless provocations” by North Korea, which has threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US.
A senior US military official visiting Seoul sent a message to both Koreas: warning Pyongyang over recent threats and reassuring South Korea that military backing won’t be hurt by a congressional budget debate.
The deputy secretary of defence, Ashton Carter, said on Monday that Pyongyang’s threats would only deepen Washington’s defence commitment to Seoul. He said that includes a “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee for Seoul, which doesn’t have atomic weapons.
Ashton said deep US budget cuts won’t alter Pentagon efforts to make South Korean security a priority.
Pyongyang is angry over USs-South Korean war games and UN sanctions meant to punish it for carrying out a third nuclear test. It has threatened nuclear attacks on Washington, though it isn’t believed to have the weapons needed to do so.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s defence ministry has said it regretted the “not entirely objective” characterisation by the former top American diplomat on the island that declining military budgets have left it vulnerable to Chinese attack and made it easier for mainland spies to penetrate its armed forces.
The remarks from William Stanton constituted an unusually hard-hitting critique of Taiwan’s national security posture, and stood in sharp contrast to repeated assertions of American support for President Ma Ying-jeou’s five-year programme of seeking to lower tensions with the mainland, from which Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949.
A career diplomat, Stanton served as the head of the de facto US embassy in Taiwan from August 2009 to August 2012. His remarks came in a speech before a pro-independence organisation in Taipei on Friday.
His charge constitutes what is believed to be the first public acknowledgement from a US government official serving or recently retired that Chinese espionage against Taiwanese targets may be affecting America’s willingness to provide security assistance to Taipei.
Responding to Stanton’s charge, Taipei’s defence ministry said it had been zealous in pursuing cases of Chinese espionage against the Taiwanese military, which proved its “credibility” in combating the Chinese spying threat.
“We will continue working on measures to safeguard our security,” it said.