North Korea has criticised Britain over its plans to permanently deploy two warships in the Asia-Pacific region this year, calling it a “provocation”.
The move comes as London steps up its engagement in Asia after expressing growing concern in recent months over China’s territorial ambitions in the region, including Taiwan.
Officials in North Korea said news of the plan coincided with the passage of the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its escort ships through seas in which China is vying for influence with the United States and Japan.
Senior armed forces officials also criticised comments by Britain’s defence minister, Ben Wallace, as suggesting that the North and China were trying to isolate Japan and South Korea and threaten freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a statement on the foreign ministry website Pak Jong-chon said:
“It is a kind of provocation against us that Britain, which is intensifying the situation by shoving its warships into far-off Asia-Pacific, is citing our ‘threat’ as an excuse. This will only result in strong resistance from local countries and tension in the already-sensitive regional situation.”
Britain’s embassy in Seoul was unavailable for comment.