U.S. envoy calls for strong, clear message to N. Korea on ship sinking

U.S. envoy calls for strong, clear message to N. Korea on ship sinking

A senior U.S. diplomat called Thursday for a strong and clear message to North Korea that the regime's sinking of a South Korean warship is an unacceptable provocation, as South Korea steps up diplomacy to rebuke Pyongyang at the United Nations, Yonhap reported.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell made the remark after a series of high-level talks with South Korean officials. His discussions in Seoul focused heavily on the North's deadly sinking of the warship Cheonan and how the international community should respond to the attack.

"We feel strongly that the international community must take a strong stance in the face of these provocations," Campbell told reporters at the end of his two-day trip to Seoul. A "very clear message" is necessary to make Pyongyang know "how unacceptable this sort of provocation" is, he said.

Campbell's trip came as South Korea intensifies diplomacy to convince the U.N. Security Council to rebuke Pyongyang for the torpedo attack on the Cheonan on March 26 that killed 46 sailors. Seoul referred the case to the Council earlier this month.

The U.S. envoy repeatedly stressed how solid the alliance between Seoul and Washington is as the two countries face what he and Seoul officials called a "defining moment of our alliance." Campbell said the alliance is "stronger, deeper and more profound" than ever before.

"We're determined to show that our alliance is very firmly together during an absolutely critical period," Campbell said at the start of a meeting with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan early Thursday.

Yu and Campbell discussed in detail how the Security Council should respond to the North's attack, and agreed that a clear message should be sent to the communist nation, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity. He declined to go into specifics.

Campbell then met with Vice Minister Chun Yung-woo, who is in charge of Seoul's diplomatic push at the Security Council. He also had a luncheon with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon to discuss a planned meeting between Lee and Obama on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit in Canada, and next month's forum in Seoul between the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries, known as "two plus two" talks.

The U.S. diplomat headed to Japan later Thursday.

South Korea has called on the Council to hand Pyongyang a stern rebuke as the sinking posed threats to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. Officials have said they hope to see a strongly worded resolution or a presidential statement from the Council.

A multinational team of investigators concluded last month that a small submarine from the North secretly infiltrated southern waters near their western sea border and attacked the warship with a heavy torpedo. North Korean torpedo parts collected from the scene were presented as evidence.

The North has denied any role in the sinking, calling the investigation a "sheer fabrication."

China and Russia, the traditional backers of Pyongyang, hold the key to any Council action against the North as they are veto-wielding permanent members of the 15-nation body. The two countries have been noncommittal about the investigation's results.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Yu conferred by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and asked for Moscow's support for Seoul's efforts at the Council, a ministry official said. The two sides agreed to consult closely on the issue, the official said, suggesting that the Russian diplomat stopped short of voicing explicit support for the South.

A team of Russian naval experts had visited South Korea earlier this month to look at the investigation records and evidence before deciding its position on the issue. Moscow's ambassador, Konstantin Vnukov, said earlier Wednesday that Russian specialists were scrutinizing related data and that it will take two to three more weeks to reach a conclusion.

In an effort to drum up support for censuring Pyongyang, South Korea briefed the Council earlier this week on the results of the investigation. The briefing drew wide support from Council members, though China and Russia still have not yet taken a solid stance on the issue, officials said.

North Korea also held a session with the Council to deny its responsibility, and Pyongyang's U.N. ambassador said in a press conference on Tuesday that the country's military will take "follow-up measures" if the Council condemns it.

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