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U.S. Vows Military Support for Seoul (The Wall Street Journal )

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  • The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Vows Military Support for


Pentagon Sets Joint Training and Clinton

Hardens Position, But Beijing Withholds

Censure; South's Speaker Offensive

The U.S. promised "unequivocal" military support for South Korea and announced new joint U.S.-South Korean naval exercises Monday, a day when Seoul laid down stiff penalties against North Korea for allegedly torpedoing a Southern patrol ship.


But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Beijing for three days of meetings with Chinese officials, didn't succeed in persuading China to criticize North Korea over its purported role in stoking one of the region's highest-tension standoffs in decades.


Mrs. Clinton said President Barack Obama's administration would move to bolster South Korea's defenses in response to the March 26 sinking of the patrol ship, the Cheonan, near the South's maritime border with the North. The South has formally blamed Pyongyang for the sinking, which killed 46 sailors.


"Our support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," Mrs. Clinton said on the sidelines of the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing. "As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the peninsula."


Pentagon officials later Monday announced joint U.S.-South Korean training exercises, including anti-submarine and maritime interdiction training. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. hadn't yet decided whether to change its military readiness level in the region.


A senior military official said the U.S. had no current plans to send additional troops or military resources to South Korea.


The U.S.'s hardening position seemed to do little to sway Beijing to publicly condemn North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for the alleged attack. President Hu Jintao and other senior Chinese leaders refused to raise the issue in speeches Monday ahead of their meetings with Mrs. Clinton, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner and other U.S. officials.


U.S. Turns to China

Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

South Korean soldiers watched President Lee Myung-bak's speech about North Korea Monday.

China's Foreign Ministry again sought to play a neutral role between the two Koreas. "We hope all parties will exercise restraint, remain cool-headed and appropriately handle issues concerned ...and prevent escalation of the event," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said. "We always believe that we should adopt a fair and objective perspective in dealing with international issues on the merits of the situation. That principle applies to the handling of the Cheonan incident."


The Obama administration views Beijing as central to any moves to punish North Korea for the Cheonan incident. China is North Korea's principal military ally and economic partner.



"The Chinese recognize the gravity of the situation we face," Mrs. Clinton said. "The Chinese understand the reaction by the South Koreans, and they also understand our unique responsibility for the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."


Mrs. Clinton said the State Department is continuing to review whether to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Bush administration removed Pyongyang from its list in 2008, easing some economic sanctions, in a bid to underpin disarmament talks.


The statements by the top U.S. diplomat came in support of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who on Monday said Seoul was cutting off all economic assistance to the North, banning North Korean ships from South Korean waters and halting visits between the two countries.


The South Korea trade ban will wipe out $500 million in annual payments to Pyongyang, according to South Korean trade data, a significant blow to an economy that generates less than $20 billion of value each year.


North Korea's state media on Monday reacted only to the penalty South Korean officials discussed that is more symbolic than impactful—a plan to place loudspeakers that blare propagandistic messages across the Demilitarized Zone along the inter-Korean border. Such a move is a return to Cold War-era theatrics and affects only the North's soldiers who are stationed at the border. North Korea said it would allow troops to shoot at the speakers.


South Korea also said it was preparing to report Pyongyang to the United Nations Security Council, potentially for a new round of sanctions. On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the evidence against North Korea "overwhelming and deeply troubling," telling a news conference that he expected the Security Council would take "prompt" action "appropriate to the gravity of the situation."


Last week, a 74-person international military-civilian investigation team, including 24 people from the U.S. and other countries, reported that the Cheonan sank because it was struck by a North Korean torpedo, major parts of which were recovered from the scene.


In announcing the penalties Monday, Mr. Lee described North Korea as out of step with a world where most nations are simultaneously engaged in economic competition and cooperation. "It is a country still holding on to an empty ambition of forcefully reuniting the Korean peninsula under the banner of communism," Mr. Lee said. "It is a country that still believes in making threats and committing terrorist acts."


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea's military actions put Northeast Asia in a "precarious situation," as the U.S. backed Seoul's moves to cut most economic ties with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, China's president stressed it would reform the Yuan, but would not say when. Andrew Browne, David Weidner and Bob O'Brien discuss.


With the trade cutoff, South Korean officials said they also hope to damage North Korea's far larger trade relationship with China: The North pays China in part with the hard currency it receives from the South.


In addition, South Korea immediately banned North Korean ships from its waters, a move that denies ships from North Korea's east coast with a shortcut to China. Such ships will be denied access to the Jeju Strait, a passage between the South Korean mainland and Jeju Island that has been crossed by 75 North Korean ships so far this year.


"If North Korean ships can't pass through South Korean waters, it would take more than 20 additional hours to go around" the southern part of the peninsula, costing time and fuel, said Jo Dong-ho, an Ewha University economist who studies North Korea.

Analysts said such a ban runs the risk of a direct confrontation with North Korea.

Most of Seoul's penalties make sense, said Moon Chung-in, a Yonsei University professor and advocate of engagement with North Korea. Putting up propaganda speakers in the DMZ, however, poses a risk of confrontation between young soldiers from the two sides. "I strongly believe that crisis can open the path to new opportunities," Mr. Moon said. "I'm afraid the South Korean government is undermining those transformation possibilities."


Officials in Seoul said they will preserve the single largest economic project between the two countries, an industrial park where, as of last week, about 120 South Korean firms employed 43,804 North Koreans. But officials urged the South Korean companies that operate in the industrial park to cut down the number of South Korean workers there. And on Monday, many did: only 295 South Koreans worked at the complex, down from 1,013 on Sunday.


South Korea stopped short of some of the more provocative options it had been considering, including a naval blockade of all North Korean ships. Mr. Lee said South Korea will continue to provide food and other assistance to North Korea for infants and children.


South Korea's trade ban on the North could wreak havoc on the country's moribund export earnings. Gone, for instance, will be Seoul's annual purchases of $54 million of shellfish, $18 million in coal and $8 million of octopus from North Korea.


—Jaeyeon Woo in Seoul, Andrew Batson in Beijing and Yochi Dreazen in Washington contributed to this article.
[ 2010-05-26, 11:16 ] 조회수 : 2890
출처 : The Wall Street Journal