Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation

Clinton Warns North Korea of Consequences of Attacking Ship

24 May 2010
Secretary Clinton, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Okada (AP Images)  (Photo: AP Images)

Secretary Clinton, left, and Japanese Foreign Minister Okada (AP Images) (Photo: AP Images)

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington - The United States and its allies Japan, China and South Korea are discussing measures to take after international investigators confirmed that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sunk a South Korean naval vessel, killing 46 sailors, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says.

"The evidence is overwhelming and condemning. The torpedo that sunk the Cheonan and took the lives of 46 South Korean sailors was fired by a North Korean submarine," Clinton said at a May 21 press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

"We cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by the international community. This will not be and cannot be business as usual," Clinton told reporters.

Clinton warned the North Korean regime that there will be an international response, not just a regional one. For its part, the North Korean regime has denied involvement.

On March 26, an explosion ripped the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette in half and it sank in about 40 meters of water near the countries' disputed western sea border, according to news reports. Fifty-eight sailors were rescued, but 46 were killed.

A panel of experts from South Korea, the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia conducted an inquiry to determine the cause of the explosion. Fragments of a torpedo propeller with North Korean markings were found by South Korean fishermen near the site of the sinking on the ocean floor, and investigators found traces of the explosive RDX, which is used in sea mines and torpedoes.

President Obama pledged his support to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in a telephone call following the attack, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement May 19.

Clinton was on the first stop of a three-nation East Asia mission that takes her from Tokyo to Shanghai for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and then to Beijing for two and a half days of talks at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. She concludes her trip in Seoul with intensive talks with South Korean officials over the incident with North Korea and what the next steps will be. South Korea is expected to take its formal complaint to the U.N. Security Council.

While in Tokyo, Clinton discussed efforts to relocate the U.S. Marine Air Station at Futenma on Okinawa and its 2,000 Marine personnel. In a 2006 agreement, the facility was to be relocated to a less populous site on Okinawa, but a suitable site has not been agreed to. Efforts are under way to find a new location by May 31.

"We both seek an arrangement that is operationally viable and politically sustainable," Clinton told reporters. "We have committed to redoubling our efforts to meet the deadline that has been announced by the Japanese government."

Clinton, who also met with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, emphasized during the joint press conference the critical and strategic importance of the U.S.-Japanese political and economic partnership. The United States has the largest economy in the world and Japan has the second largest. But the partnership is also the linchpin to Northeast Asian security.

"We agreed, at a time when tension is increasing in Northeast Asia ... that the Japan-U.S. security alliance is important and this is the year to deepen such ties," Hatoyama told reporters after meeting with Clinton. "I want to explain frankly to the Japanese people that the presence of U.S. troops in Japan is indispensable to Japan's security and to the peace and stability of the region in the current security environment."