U.S. military told to get ready in Korea standoff
WASHINGTON – The White House said Monday that President Barack Obama “fully supports” the South Korean president and his response to the torpedo attack by North Korea that sank a South Korean naval ship.
In a statement, the White House said Seoul can continue to count on the full backing of the United States and said U.S. military commanders had been told to work with their South Korean counterparts “to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression.”
The administration said it endorsed President Lee Myung-bak’s demand that “North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior.”
Late last week, a team of international investigators accused North Korea of torpedoing the Cheonan corvette in March, killing 46 sailors in one of the deadliest clashes between the two since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The United States still has about 28,000 troops in South Korea to provide military support. The two Koreas, still technically at war, have more than 1 million troops near their border.
“U.S. support for South Korea’s defense is unequivocal, and the President has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression,” the statement said.
“We will build on an already strong foundation of excellent cooperation between our militaries and explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the Peninsula as part of our ongoing dialogue,” it said.
“The U.S. will continue to work with the Republic of Korea and other allies and partners to reduce the threat that North Korea poses to regional stability,” the statement added.
Lee said Monday that South Korea would no longer tolerate the North’s “brutality” and said the repressive communist regime would pay for the surprise March 26 torpedo attack.
He also vowed to cut off all trade with the North and take Pyongyang to the U.N. Security Council for punishment over the sinking of the warship Cheonan.
Speaking earlier in Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the North must be held accountable and she is pushing to get the support of China, North Korea’s top ally, for diplomatic action.
Clinton warned of a “highly precarious” security situation in the region, and said North Korea’s neighbors, including Pyongyang ally China, understood the seriousness of the matter.
Clinton would not say whether such action would include new international sanctions against the North, and said she was engaged in intense consultations with China and other nations about the next step.
“We are working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation,” Clinton said.
So far, China has refrained from criticizing the North, which it supplied with troops during the Korean War
Obama and Lee have agreed to meet at the G20 summit in Canada next month, the statement said.