China Says Threats Will Not End North Korea Crisis as US Hints at Military Option

North Korean soldiers parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AFP)
North Korean soldiers parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AFP)

China Says Threats Will Not End North Korea Crisis as US Hints at Military Option

North Korean soldiers parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AFP)
North Korean soldiers parade in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AFP)

China on Tuesday said that threatening action or rhetoric will not help in resolving the crisis with North Korea only hours after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that military options are available.

“Developments in the peninsula nuclear issue up to this point prove that, no matter whether it is military threats in words or in action, they cannot promote and advance a resolution,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said.

Asked whether there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk, Mattis said there were, but declined to give details.

“To the contrary, it just adds to tensions and makes achieving the goal of de-nuclearization on the peninsula appear more complicated and difficult to resolve,” the Chinese official added, responding to a question about Mattis’ comments at a regular briefing.

The North has repeatedly defied the United Nations to conduct nuclear and missile tests, the latest being a mid-range missile fired over Japan on Friday, soon after the reclusive nation’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3.

Seoul is within artillery range of North Korea, which is also believed to have a sizable chemical and biological arsenal beyond nuclear and conventional weapons.

Any conflict on the Korean peninsula could lead to bloodshed unseen since the 1950-53 Korean War, which took the lives of more than 50,000 Americans and millions of Koreans and ended in an armed truce, not a peace treaty.

Military options available to the United States range from non-lethal actions such as a naval blockade to enforce sanctions to waging cyber attacks and positioning new US weaponry in South Korea, where the United States has 28,500 troops.

South Korea and the United States, and separately Russia together with China, started military drills on Monday, in a show of force against North Korea.

The Korean peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stressed during a meeting with his Russian counterpart at the United Nations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone about keeping pressure on North Korea using economic sanctions imposed through the United Nations, the White House has said.

Meanwhile, Trump will urge during his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday world powers to turn up the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

He will seek to rally the world to help the US and its Asian allies reduce North Korea to pariah status.

Trump’s move on Pyongyang comes as the US ambassador to the United States, Nikki Haley, says that most non-military options have all but been exhausted. The UN Security Council has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on North Korea.

Mattis told reporters that he believed diplomacy and sanctions were so far succeeding in putting more pressure on Pyongyang.

Even as tensions rise, the United States and its allies have stuck to a hands-off policy when North Korea test-fires its missiles. Mattis confirmed that the US would not shoot down a North Korean missile unless it poses a direct threat to the United States or its allies.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said on Monday that the more sanctions that Washington and its allies imposed on Pyongyang, the faster it would move to complete its nuclear plans.

South Korea has raised the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to the peninsula. Mattis acknowledged discussing that with his South Korean counterpart but declined to say whether that option was under consideration.

Japan on Tuesday moved a mobile missile-defense system on the northern island of Hokkaido to a base near recent North Korean missile flyover routes.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor unit was deployed at the Hakodate base on southern Hokkaido "as a precaution" as part of government preparations for a possible emergency.

The relocation came after a North Korean missile was test-fired last week and flew over southern Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific off the island's east coast — the second flyover in less than a month.

The PAC-3 was brought from another base in Yakumo town on Hokkaido, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Hakodate. The system has a range of about 20 kilometers (12 miles).

Four more of Japan's 34 PAC-3 units, largely used to defend the capital region, were relocated to southwestern Japan recently after North Korea warned of sending missiles toward the US territory of Guam.

Japan currently has a two-step missile defense system. First, Standard Missile-3 interceptors on Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan would attempt to shoot down missiles mid-flight. If that fails, surface-to-air PAC-3s would try to intercept them.

Japan's Constitution, which limits the use of force to self-defense, only allows the military to shoot down missiles that are heading to Japan, or debris falling onto Japanese territory. Onodera has said a new security law passed in 2015 might allow it to shoot down a Guam-bound missile if it poses a critical security threat to Japan and its top ally, the United States.

Putin Signs Deals With Vietnam in Bid to Shore Up Ties in Asia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

Putin Signs Deals With Vietnam in Bid to Shore Up Ties in Asia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who soon begins a visit to North Korea, last traveled to the isolated country in 2000. NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of deals with his Vietnamese counterpart To Lam on Thursday, during a state visit that comes as Moscow is seeking to bolster ties in Asia to offset growing international isolation over its military actions in Ukraine.
The two signed agreements to further cooperation on education, science and technology, oil and gas exploration and health. They also agreed to work on a roadmap for a nuclear science and technology center in Vietnam, The Associated Press said.
Following the talks, Putin said that the two countries share an interest in “developing a reliable security architecture” in the Asia-Pacific Region based on not using force and peacefully settling disputes with no room for “closed military-political blocs.”
This was echoed by Vietnam's new President To Lam, who said they seek to further “further cooperate in defense and security to cope with non-traditional security challenges” while implementing energy projects and expanding investments. He also congratulated Putin on his re-election and praised Russia's “domestic political stability.”
The agreements between Russia and Vietnam were not as substantial as an agreement Putin signed with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the previous day, pledging mutual aid in the event of invasion said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and a former British ambassador to Belarus.
Putin arrived in Hanoi early Thursday morning from North Korea, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that pledges mutual aid in the event of war. The strategic pact that could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War comes as both face escalating standoffs with the West.
Putin also met Vietnam’s most powerful politician, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, as well as Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, according to the official Vietnam News Agency. He is also scheduled to meet parliamentary chief Tran Thanh Man.
Putin drove to Vietnam’s Presidential Palace on Thursday afternoon, where he was greeted by school children waving Russian and Vietnamese flags. There, he shook hands with and embraced Lam before a bilateral meeting and a joint briefing to the media.
Russia is keen to maintain “close and effective cooperation” in energy, industry, technology, education, security and trade, Russian Ambassador to Vietnam Gennady S. Bezdetko said on Wednesday, according to Vietnamese official media.
The trip has resulted in a sharp rebuke from the US Embassy in the country.
Much has changed since Putin's last visit to Vietnam in 2017. Russia now faces a raft of US-led sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine. In 2023, the International Criminal Court in Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes. The Kremlin rejected it as “null and void,” stressing that Moscow doesn’t recognize the court's jurisdiction.
Putin's recent visits to China and now North Korea and Vietnam are attempts to “break the international isolation,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.
The US and its allies have expressed growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its use in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
Both countries deny accusations of weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.
Meanwhile, Russia is important to Vietnam for two reasons, Giang said: It is the biggest supplier of military equipment to the Southeast Asian nation, and Russian oil exploration technologies help maintain its sovereignty claims in the contested South China Sea.
“Russia is signaling that it is not isolated in Asia despite the Ukraine war, and Vietnam is reinforcing a key traditional relationship even as it also diversifies ties with newer partners,” said Prashanth Parameswaran, a fellow with the Wilson Center’s Asia Program.
It is unlikely that Vietnam will supplying significant quantities of weapons to Russia, because that would risk progress the country has made with NATO members on military equipment, particularly the US, which has donated naval patrol vessels and is in talks to supply aircraft, said Ridzwan Rahmat, a Singapore-based analyst with the defense intelligence company Janes.
“There is progress that you wouldn’t have imagined just 10 years ago,” he said. “So I would imagine Vietnam wouldn’t want to take a risk, inviting the wrath of Western countries by supplying the Russians.”
Hanoi and Moscow have had diplomatic relations since 1950, and this year marks 30 years of a treaty establishing “friendly relations” between Vietnam and Russia.
Evidence of this long relationship and its influence can be seen in Vietnamese cities like the capital, where the many Soviet-style apartment blocks are now dwarfed by skyscrapers and a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, stands in a park where kids skateboard every evening. Many of the Communist Party's top leadership in Vietnam studied in Soviet universities, including party chief Trong.
In an article written for Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Putin vowed to deepen the ties between Moscow and Hanoi and hailed Vietnam as a “strong supporter of a fair world order based on international law, on the principles of equality of all states and non-interference in their domestic affairs.”
He also thanked “Vietnamese friends for their balanced position on the Ukrainian crisis,” in the article released by the Kremlin.
Given Putin's international isolation, Vietnam is doing the Russian leader a “huge favor and may expect favors in return,” wrote Andrew Goledzinowski, the Australian ambassador to Vietnam, on social media platform X. He said that it would have been hard for Vietnam to decline the visit since Putin was already in Asia and Vietnam has historical ties with the former Soviet Republic, but said that it was unlikely that the two would be strategic partners again. “Vietnam will always act in Vietnam’s interests and not anyone else’s,” he wrote.
Vietnam's pragmatic policy of “bamboo diplomacy” — a phrase coined by Trong referring to the plant's flexibility, bending but not breaking in the shifting headwinds of global geopolitics — is being increasingly tested.
A manufacturing powerhouse and an increasingly important player in global supply chains, Vietnam played host to both U.S. President Joe Biden and the leader of rival China, Xi Jinping, in 2023.
The visit was important for Hanoi on a diplomatic level, said Gould-Davies, the former ambassador.
“Perhaps for Vietnam it’s a matter of just showing that it’s able to maintain this very agile balance of its bamboo diplomacy,” he said. “Already in the course of a year they’ve hosted visits by the heads of state of the three most powerful countries in the world, which is pretty impressive."
Similarly, for Russia the visit seems to have been more about optics than anything else, he said, as Moscow seeks to engage and influence other countries, particularly in the so-called Global South.