- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2013

Russia and China are calling for restraint on the Korean peninsula, where the North responded with midnight crisis meetings and more fist-shaking Friday to an overflight by U.S. nuclear-capable B-2 bombers.

“The situation could simply get out of control, it is slipping toward the spiral of a vicious cycle,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said of the confrontation, according to Reuters news agency.

Tensions across the ceasefire line from the 1953 war — which has never been formally ended — have been building since the second week in March when joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises began and the U.N.-imposed sanctions on Pyongyang as punishment for an illegal nuclear test in February.

“We are concerned that alongside the adequate, collective reaction of the U.N. Security Council, unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

Reuters called the comments an “implicit criticism” of Thursday’s highly publicized bombing drill by U.S. B-2 aircraft, in which the supersonic stealth bombers dropped dummy ordnance on a South Korean island.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for restraint at a regular press briefing, according to Agence France Presse.

“We call on all relevant parties to make joint efforts to turn around the tense situation,” he said.

China is the only major ally of the crumbling and hermetic communist regime in North Korea, as well as its biggest trading partner.

“Peace and stability on the Korean peninsula as well as Northeast Asia serves the common interest,” Mr. Hong added.

In Pyongyang, third-generation hereditary dictator Kim Jong-Un held a crisis meeting with the North’s top military leaders in the small hours of Friday morning to agree a response to the B-2 drill, state media reported.

Mr. Kim called the B-2 overflights “an ultimatum that they [the United States] will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean peninsula,” according to Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang.

He signed off on a “strike plan” for North Korea’s “Strategic Rocket Forces” according to the agency, assigning targets including “the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.”

Analysts say the North has medium range missiles that can strike U.S. bases in the Pacific, but not reach the continental United States.

Mr. Lavrov called for efforts to get stalled six-party talks on North Korea going again. The talks have involved the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan.

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