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Latest update : 2010-05-21

South Korean and US officials warned of tough action against North Korea, a day after investigators reported evidence that a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship in March.

AFP - The United States and South Korea vowed Friday to make North Korea pay the price for torpedoing a warship in March, as international anger grew over the attack which claimed 46 lives.

In Tokyo, visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was "important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences".

Seoul Defence Minister Kim Tae-Young, a day after investigators reported overwhelming evidence that a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean corvette, said: "North Korea surpassed the limits and for such an act we will make it pay."

At the start of an Asian tour that later Friday took her to Shanghai, ahead of planned stops in Beijing and Seoul, Clinton said she and Japan's Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada agreed the North must end its belligerence towards neighbours.

"We cannot allow this attack to go unanswered by the international community," she said, adding she looks forward to "intensive consultations in China".

The attack on the Cheonan near the disputed border with the North on March 26 sparked outrage and grief in South Korea, but Seoul has apparently ruled out any military counterstrike for fear of triggering full-scale war.

"This incident is so serious and grave an issue that we must be very cautious and prudent in handling it," said President Lee Myung-Bak after convening his first National Security Council meeting in almost a year.

Seoul is engaged in hectic diplomacy to win support for its bid to refer Pyongyang to the United Nations Security Council for punishment.

The communist North, for the second time in two days, denied involvement and accused Seoul of faking the evidence. It has threatened "all-out war" in response to any attempt to punish it.

China, the North's ally and a veto-wielding Security Council member, would have to support or abstain in any move to tighten sanctions further.

Unlike Western nations and Japan, Beijing has so far failed to condemn the North for the attack and merely called for restraint by all sides.

South Korea believes it has a strong case, after parts of a torpedo were salvaged last Saturday from the murky depths of the Yellow Sea.

Defence officials Friday again put the salvaged propellers and other items on display.

Experts pointed out similarities between the salvaged weaponry and a blueprint the North has used when exporting such torpedoes. They said explosive residue found on the weaponry matches that on the warship's hull.

A top intelligence official said the North apparently launched the attack partly in revenge for a naval firefight near the border in November which left one of its patrol boats in flames.

The aim was "to restore honour to the military and boost its morale", said the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt Gen Hwang Won-Dong.

Minister Kim said Seoul would seek additional Security Council sanctions among other measures.

Those measures are expected to be announced early next week by the president, who Friday termed the torpedo attack a breach of the armistice agreement which ended the 1950-53 war.

The North Friday reiterated that its neighbour is fabricating the case and said the situation on the peninsula is akin to war.

"It just produced fragments and pieces of aluminium whose origin remains unknown as 'evidence', becoming the target of derision," it said.

Andrei Lankov, of South Korea's Kookmin University, said the sinking showed that the Pyongyang regime "is becoming less calculating, less rational and less Machiavellian than it used to be".

"And that is not good news," he wrote in the Korea Times, suggesting that leader Kim Jong-Il's apparent stroke in 2008 may be partly responsible.

The US-led United Nations Command said it would launch its own inquiry to review the findings of Seoul's investigation "and determine the scope of armistice violation that occurred in the sinking".

The command has been in the South since the UN sent an international force to defend it after the Korean War broke out in 1950.

Date created : 2010-05-21


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