Tags: US | Korea | ship | sinking

US Envoy Vows Solidarity With SKorea

Thursday, 17 Jun 2010 05:37 AM

SEOUL — The United States Thursday pledged solidarity with South Korea in its bid to censure North Korea for the sinking of a warship, with a senior envoy urging the world to take a strong stance.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was visiting Seoul days after the North threatened military action in response to any United Nations condemnation over the deadly sinking of the Cheonan in March.

"We are here to make clear our strongest possible commitment of solidarity with South Korea," Campbell told reporters before talks with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan and other officials.

"We are determined to show that our alliance is standing very firmly together during an absolutely critical period."

Regional tensions have risen sharply since the South accused its hardline communist neighbour of torpedoing one of its warships near the disputed Yellow Sea border with the loss of 46 lives.

The South has announced its own reprisals including cutting off trade. It also wants a strongly worded resolution, or at least a presidential statement, from the 15-member UN Security Council.

This week it briefed council members on the evidence collected by a multinational investigation, which found overwhelming evidence that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the Cheonan.

The North, which angrily denies the South's claims as "sheer fabrication", also addressed the council.

"This is a defining moment for our alliance," Campbell told a press conference. Sixty years after the start of the Korean War, he said, "the United States is standing closer than ever with South Korea".

Campbell said Seoul and Washington have won widespread international support for their response to the sinking. "We'll face the North Korean provocations from a position of profound strength."

The United States and South Korea must still persuade veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia to sign up to any statement censuring the North.

China, the sole major ally and chief economic partner of the impoverished North, has been non-committal.

Russia sent naval experts to examine the South's evidence, including what Seoul says is part of a North Korean torpedo salvaged from the seabed.

Its ambassador to South Korea has said Russia would take two to three more weeks to reach a conclusion on the matter.

"We feel very strongly that the international community must take a strong stance in the face of this provocation," Campbell said.

China "understands the gravity of the situation", he added when asked about Beijing's stance.

"Currently South Korea and the United States are making very best efforts to ensure that we are working closely with China on a way ahead."

South Korea's new army chief said separately that chances of another military provocation are high.

"North Korea is not showing any direct moves for provocations, but when we look at its past pattern of behaviour, there are fair chances of provocations and that's why we raised" alertness, General Hwang Eui-Don was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

Amid the tensions, there have been calls in both the United States and South Korea to rethink a proposed change in wartime command in 2012.

If war broke out now, a US army general would take command of 650,000 South Korean troops as well as 28,500 American troops stationed in the country.

The South is scheduled from April 2012 to take control of its forces in the event of war.

The South's defence ministry said Thursday that US forces would regain control over a major annual computerised military exercise with South Korea this year.

In 2008 and last year the South's military took charge of the drill, to prepare for the scheduled transfer of wartime command.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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SEOUL — The United States Thursday pledged solidarity with South Korea in its bid to censure North Korea for the sinking of a warship, with a senior envoy urging the world to take a strong stance.
US,Korea,ship,sinking
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2010-37-17
Thursday, 17 Jun 2010 05:37 AM
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