WASHINGTON, May 25, 2010 — South Korean officials have laid out a full and appropriate response to the North Korean sinking of a South Korean frigate that killed 46 sailors in March, and the U.S. government fully supports the response, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Beijing today.
“We are looking forward to working with our friends in South Korea,” Clinton said. “We appreciated the very statesmanlike approach that President Lee Myung-bak is following, and the prudent measures that he announced in his speech.”
The president spoke to his nation’s people from the War Memorial in the South Korean capital of Seoul yesterday. “From now on,” he said, “South Korea will not tolerate any kind of provocation from the North and will act according to the principle of proactive deterrence.”
South Korea has put in place many responses to the frigate Cheonan’s sinking “commercially, from an industrial standpoint, from a security standpoint, from a diplomacy point of view,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. “The Republic of Korea has laid out a fairly full agenda charting the way forward, and [one that] as a government, the United States is fully supportive of.”
Lee closed South Korean waters to North Korean ships. “Inter-Korean trade and other exchanges will be suspended,” he said. “After sinking our ship and claiming the lives of our servicemen, any kind of exchange or cooperation at this point is meaningless.”
The South Korean president added that he will examine the status of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, where more than 100 South Korean companies have industrial plants, and that he would refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
U.S. military forces in Korea are at a constant state of readiness, and the security situation on the peninsula is tense. South Korean military forces “are maintaining a robust military readiness posture through the integrated operation of [South Korean]-U.S. combined intelligence assets and the strengthening [of] our 24-hour surveillance activities against indications of North Korean provocation,” South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a written statement today. He also announced that the military will re-start psychological operations against North Korea, which have been suspended since 2004.
Beginning today, South Korean ships will interdict the entry of North Korean ships into South Korean waters and “take appropriate measures – including forcible removal – in case of noncompliance,” Kim said.
Korean and American officials will conduct a combined anti-submarine exercise in the Yellow Sea in the near future, Kim said. U.S. officials had not identified the ships and assets that will participate, Whitman said. The Koreans and other countries involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative are preparing maritime interdiction training exercises both within and outside the region to actively stem the proliferation of North Korean nuclear weapons and their weapons of mass destruction, he added.
Meanwhile, Lee continues to leave the door open to the North.
“We are not aiming for military confrontation,” the South Korean president said. “Our goal is peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and ultimately, peaceful reunification. It’s high time for the North to change.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)