Sep 20, 2021 - World

North Korea warns U.S. risks "nuclear arms race" with submarine deal

North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un meets Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) on April 25, 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un in 2019. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

North Korea warned of possible "counteraction" if it finds the new U.S. deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia is a threat to its security, per a statement published by the state-run KCNA news agency Monday.

Details: The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement said both the U.S. security partnership with the U.K. and Australia, known as AUKUS, and the submarine deal were "extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race."

Why it matters: The comments come days after Chinese government officials responded to the deal by warning of an "arms race," and at a time when North Korea appears to be stepping up its missiles program.

Of note: The North Korean statement added: "Even a U.S. ally called the U.S. move a 'brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision' and 'a stab in the back'" — an apparent reference t0 comments by French government officials, angry that their $90 billion submarine deal with Australia was scrapped following the pact.

What they're saying: When asked for comment, the Defense Department referred Axios to last week's joint statement and press conference on AUKUS, during which officials spoke of pursuing peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • The Biden administration has stressed that Australia isn't seeking nuclear weapons and that all three AUKUS countries are committed to non-proliferation.
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday that French officials knew his government had "deep and grave concerns" about the original submarines plan.

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