SINGAPORE – The top defense officials of the United States, Japan and South Korea today pledged their nations‘ continued solidarity in the aftermath of North Korea’s sinking of the freighter Cheonan on March 26 that killed 46 South Korean sailors.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young made brief statements before their trilateral meeting as part of the „Shangri-La Dialogue“ Asia security summit here.
Gates noted that the first such meeting took place during last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, and said it proved to be an ideal forum for discussing a range of common security interests.
„Obviously, today’s conversation, like last year’s, will largely focus on North Korea and its ongoing threat to regional stability, as highlighted by the unprovoked attack on the Cheonan,“ the secretary said.
Gates said he told Kim yesterday and reiterated to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak today that „the United States stands by and steadfastly supports our ally,“ and added that he’s pleased Japan also has stood by South Korea in response to the incident.
„Attacks like that on the Cheonan undermine the peace and stability of not just the Korean peninsula, but the region as a whole,“ he said. „To do nothing would set the wrong precedent. The international community can and must hold North Korea accountable. The United States will continue to work with the Republic of Korea, Japan and our other partners to figure out the best way to do just that.“
Speaking through a translator, Kitazawa noted the importance of today’s trilateral meeting against the backdrop of rising tension on the Korean peninsula.
„I trust that this will serve as a strong message to the international community as well as to North Korea,“ he said, „and I very much hope that the three countries will be able to show our strong determination.“
Also speaking through a translator, Kim expressed delight that the three defense leaders could meet here again, as they did last year.
„I also believe that we are creating great momentum, especially at a time when the security situation in the peninsula and the region are so sensitive,“ he said. He added that through the Cheonan incident, the three nations are able to further strengthen their security cooperation ties through close coordination and cooperation.
Kim thanked the United States and Japan for their support of South Korea. „And I would like to ask you again for your continued cooperation and support as we take this matter to the United Nations Security Council, and as we take other measures as well,“ he added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)