Gates Condemns Attack on South Korea

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today con­demned the attack by North Korea on the small South Kore­an island of Yeon­pyeong, accord­ing to Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell.
“In a phone call this morn­ing, Sec­re­tary Gates told [South Kore­an Defense] Min­is­ter Kim [Tae-young] the Unit­ed States strong­ly con­demns the artillery attack by North Korea, views it as a vio­la­tion of the armistice agree­ment and assured him that we are com­mit­ted to South Korea’s defense,” Mor­rell said in an issued read­out of Gates’ call with Kim.

“He expressed sym­pa­thy for the loss of life and appre­ci­a­tion for the restraint shown to date by the South Kore­an gov­ern­ment. The Sec­re­tary and the Min­is­ter agreed their depart­ments should con­sult close­ly and coor­di­nate on any response to this act of aggres­sion by the North,” Mor­rell said.

The White House this morn­ing issued a state­ment con­demn­ing the attack and call­ing on North Korea to halt its “bel­liger­ent” action and to ful­ly abide by the terms of the Armistice Agree­ment. Offi­cials from both the White House and DOD affirmed the U.S. alliance with South Korea and are close­ly mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the Kore­an penin­su­la in the wake of today’s attack that is report­ed to have killed two and injured at least 15.

“We will hon­or our alliance oblig­a­tions to the South, and … we are deter­mined to pro­mote peace and secu­ri­ty on the penin­su­la,” Mor­rell said ear­li­er today in an inter­view on MSNBC.

“We take this very seri­ous­ly, just as we took the sink­ing of the Cheo­nan ear­li­er this year very seri­ous­ly, [in which] the North mur­dered some 40 South Kore­an sailors,” he said. Mor­rell said Gates respond­ed to a reporter’s ques­tion yes­ter­day about North Korea by say­ing, “To any ques­tion begin­ning with ‘Why?’ with regards to North Korea, my answer is the same: I don’t know.”

North Korea’s gov­ern­ment is extreme­ly unpre­dictable, and “they do things you could not pos­si­bly have pre­dict­ed in a ratio­nal world,” Mor­rell said. Mor­rell said U.S. sanc­tions in place against North Korea have been strength­ened since the March sink­ing of the Cheo­nan.

“It’s hard to pile more sanc­tions upon the North than are already there,” he said, “and yet it seems they are not fool­proof. But we’ve always known they aren’t fool­proof.” North Korea’s gov­ern­ment “is deter­mined to bypass the sanc­tions [and] to not abide by its inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions,” the press sec­re­tary said.

North Korea’s irre­spon­si­ble behav­ior also is “demon­strat­ed by the fact that it’s try­ing to be a pro­lif­er­a­tor of weapons, that it’s deal­ing with coun­tries that are also under sanc­tions … unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is not out of keep­ing with their bel­liger­ent and unpre­dictable behav­ior,” Mor­rell said.

The Defense Depart­ment views North Korea’s actions “with con­cern,” Pen­ta­gon spokesman Col. David Lapan told reporters today.

The North Kore­ans “cer­tain­ly increase ten­sions on the penin­su­la,” Lapan said, “and so any type of mil­i­tary inci­dents between North and the Repub­lic of Korea are viewed with con­cern, because of con­tribut­ing to insta­bil­i­ty in the region, and espe­cial­ly on the Kore­an penin­su­la.”

Mean­while, he said, the U.S. gov­ern­ment is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and con­fer­ring with allies.

“At this point it’s pre­ma­ture to say that we’re con­sid­er­ing any [mil­i­tary] action,” Lapan said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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