TOKYO (AP) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said
Friday that evidence was "overwhelming" that a North Korean
submarine sank a South Korean warship and that the communist
country must face international consequences for its actions.
Speaking in the Japanese capital at the outset of a three-nation
Asian trip, Clinton said the U.S., Japan, South Korea and China are
consulting on an appropriate reaction to an international
investigation that blamed North Korea for the incident.
She said the report proves a North Korean sub fired a torpedo
that sank the ship, the Cheonan, in March and that it could no
longer be "business as usual" in dealing with the matter.
While it was "premature" to discuss exact options or actions
that will be taken in response, Clinton said it was "important to
send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have
"The evidence is overwhelming and condemning. The torpedo that
sunk the Cheonan ... was fired by a North Korean submarine," she
told reporters at a joint press conference with Japanese Foreign
Minister Katsuya Okada.
"We cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by
the international community," she said. "This will not be and
cannot be business as usual. There must be an international, not
just a regional, but an international response."
North Korea denies it was responsible for the sinking and has
threatened to retaliate against any attempt to punish it with
Clinton's Asian tour, which will also take her to China and
South Korea, was supposed to focus on U.S.-China economic issues.
But that was before she left Washington and Thursday's release of
the report that concluded that a North Korean sub had torpedoed a
South Korean corvette on March 26, splitting the vessel in two and
killing 46 sailors.
Input from the three countries will be key to determining an
appropriate response, especially with fears that too tough a
reaction could provoke new hostilities or spark chaos in the
region. The Obama administration has said it wants South Korea to
lead the way in coming up with possible responses.
Underscoring the concern, U.S. officials have refused to call
the North's attack on the ship an act of war or state-sponsored
terror, warning that an overreaction could cause the Korean
peninsula to "explode."
U.S. officials said they would explore diplomatic steps through
the U.N. or increase Washington's unilateral sanctions against
North Korea's Soviet-style state.
At an emergency national security meeting Friday in Seoul, South
Korean President Lee Myung-bak said his country was caught in a
"perfect military ambush" but called for a cautious response to
the sinking. Lee said the attack violated the U.N. Charter as well
as the truce that ended the fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Clinton's main task during her time in Beijing may be trying to
persuade the Chinese to support U.N. Security Council action
against North Korea. The Chinese have the most leverage over the
reclusive regime, and Beijing's support for any international
response to Pyongyang will be critical to its success.
Chinese officials have appealed for calm. Vice Foreign Minister
Cui Tiankai called the sinking "unfortunate." But he stopped
short of backing Seoul in the growing dispute, instead reiterating
China's long-standing views on the need to maintain peace on the
Clinton said Tokyo and Washington were seeking to resolve a
dispute over the relocation of a key Marine base on the southern
island of Okinawa by the end-of-May deadline that Japan's prime
minister has set.
The Tokyo government has said it would like to move Futenma
Marine air field off the island, which already hosts more than half
the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, but hasn't found a
"We both seek an arrangement that is operationally viable and
politically sustainable. The goal of our governments remains
unchanged. We want to maintain the security of Japan and the
stability of the region," Clinton said.
"We have committed to redoubling our efforts to meet the
deadline that has been announced by the Japanese government."
Okada, the foreign minister, said the two sides were working
together and that Tokyo would "make the utmost efforts to gain the
understanding of the Okinawan people."