U.S. Indo-Pacific commander voices concerns over N. Korea-Russia military ties

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (Yonhap) -- The chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command expressed concerns Tuesday over alleged arms transfers between North Korea and Russia, stressing his unit is watching the developments "very closely."

In a press briefing, Adm. John C. Aquilino commented on the arms transfers, following U.S. revelations that the North shipped more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia in recent weeks for use in Ukraine.

"North Korea and Russia with the transfer of weapons and capabilities that you have seen and been written about in the media is also of concern," he said. "So, the region has gotten more dangerous, and we watch it very closely."

Asked about his view on the summit that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to have in Beijing on Wednesday, Aquilino said that the stated "no-limits" relationship between Beijing and Moscow is of concern.

"The inability (by China and Russia) to denounce bad actions globally, and their increased cooperation exercise... We watch it very closely," he said. "Two authoritarian powers working that closely together is certainly concerning."

The press briefing was held regarding the release this week of newly declassified pictures and videos, which Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said depicted the Chinese military's "coercive and risky" behavior in the East and South China Seas.

Since the fall of 2021, there have been nearly 200 cases where Chinese Air Force pilots have performed risky maneuvers that include discharging chaff, shooting off flares or approaching U.S. aircraft too closely, according to Ratner.

The release of the pictures and videos came ahead of the Pentagon's China Military Power Report entailing the U.S.' public assessment of the Chinese military and its role to help realize Beijing's military ambitions.

"The PLA's coercive and risky behavior like the kind that the department is highlighting today seeks to intimidate and coerce members of the international community into giving up their rights under international law," Ratner said. PLA stands for People's Liberation Army.

"The bottom line is that in many cases, this type of operational behavior can cause accidents and dangerous accidents can lead to inadvertent conflict," he added.

Ratner said that the U.S. "will not be deterred or coerced," while stressing that the U.S. will continue to seek open lines of communication with the Chinese military.

"We will continue to fly, sail and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows," he said.

This photo, taken on July 2, 2021, shows Adm. John C. Aquilino, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaking during an event at Camp Humphreys, a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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