Gates: U.S. eyeing ‘additional options’ on North KoreaThe United States is reviewing “additional options” to deal with North Korea, on top of joint naval drills with South Korea and supporting the South in its request for UN action, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during an annual defense meeting over the weekend in Singapore.
However, Gates did not elaborate on the details of these options during the meeting.
During the Shangri-La Dialogue conference on Saturday, defense ministers from South Korea and the United States joined to urge the international community to unite in holding North Korea accountable for torpedoing the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.
North Korea has denied the charge and threatened to wage war if any punishment is levied.
South Korea on Friday formally requested that the UN Security Council discuss penalties for the North.
“To do nothing would set the wrong precedent,” Gates said. “Inaction would amount to an abdication of our collective responsibility to protect the peace and reinforce stability in Asia.”
Gates joined South Korea in asking for the support of other nations, including China and Russia, in punishing North Korea. In a separate BBC interview on Saturday, Gates said, “As long as the regime doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, there’s not a lot you can do about it, to be quite frank, unless you’re willing at some point to use military force. And nobody wants to do that.”
However, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young made it clear that defense was another subject, and vowed to strengthen the country’s military posture to deter further aggression by the North.
“The international community must unite to clearly show North Korea that there comes a corresponding price to pay and responsibility to take for any wrongdoing,” Kim said in Singapore. South Korean defense officials at the conference handed out pamphlets that detailed the results of the international probe that concluded that a North Korea torpedo blew the Cheonan apart.
The conference brought together defense heads from 28 countries including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia, and the South Korean defense minister held separate meetings with 11 defense heads. Britain’s defense minister, Liam Fox, said his country supports South Korea, and that big powers need to step in to ease tensions between the North and South.
But China’s representative at the Singapore conference, Gen. Ma Xiao-tian, the deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army, did not give any indication that the country supported South Korea. “Nations should exercise restraint to resolve regional conflicts,” he said.
After a meeting with Ma, Kim said, “I explained to him fully for over 30 minutes what caused the Cheonan incident, and what surfaced in the process of the investigation.” He added, “China remains cautious but we hope that it will reach a responsible conclusion.”
Kim also held a trilateral talk with Gates and Japanese defense minister Toshimi Kitazawa.
Meanwhile, as fears of conflict spread across the Korean peninsula, President Lee Myung-bak assured Singaporean business leaders over the weekend that “there is no chance of a full-scale war at all.”
During a meeting with Singaporean business leaders including the head of the Singapore Business Federation, Tony Chew, Lee added that as the South Korean economy is recovering rapidly, it is a good time for Singaporean firms to invest in the country.
Lee also had a summit with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday and discussed ways to bolster an economic partnership between the two countries. The two signed a memorandum of understanding on raising joint assistance to developing nations and bolstering ties regarding the safety of pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and medical devices.
By Cho Jae-eun, Jeong Yong-soo [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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