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Clinton in Seoul for crisis talks as tensions escalate

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-27

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Seoul for talks that will be dominated by escalating tensions in the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang announced it was severing all ties with the South.

AFP - South Korea vowed Wednesday to punish North Korea for sinking a warship despite fiery threats from the communist regime, and the United States said the world must respond to the naval attack.
   
After North Korea said it was severing all links with the rival South, its military said it would block access to a joint industrial estate if the South resumes loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across the tense frontier.
   

A multinational investigation concluded last week that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed one of Seoul's corvettes, the Cheonan, on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives.
   
The findings sparked strong international condemnation of the hardline communist state, but the North's ally China was a notable exception.
   
The South Monday announced a package of reprisals, including a halt to most trade. It is also mounting a diplomatic drive to punish the North through the United Nations Security Council.
   
"North Korea should have apologised for its attack on the Cheonan and punished those responsible," said unification ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung.
   
"But again it has taken a threatening step that undermines inter-Korean relations," he said, referring to the severing of ties.
   
"The government will deal with such North Korean threats sternly and unwaveringly and will carry out the (reprisal) measures announced on May 24."
   
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, visiting Seoul in a gesture of solidarity, said the United States had a "rock-solid commitment" to the security of its decades-old ally.
   
She warned the North to halt its "provocations and policy of threats and belligerence" against neighbours.
   

BEIJING UNWILLING TO REBUKE N. KOREA
Clinton backed Seoul's moves to take the attack to the Security Council, saying the international community has "a responsibility and duty to respond".
   
She said Washington, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, would consider enhancing its defence posture to deter future attacks.
   
The Pentagon is planning joint anti-submarine and other naval exercises with South Korea.
   
"The United States is also reviewing additional options and authorities to hold North Korea and its leaders accountable," Clinton said without elaborating.
   
Clinton arrived in Seoul from two days of talks in Beijing, at which she pressed China to take a tougher line with the North.
   
China merely urged restraint on all parties. As a veto-wielding security council member, it would have to approve any new sanctions on Pyongyang or at least abstain.
   
The chief US diplomat gave no indication China is ready to accept Security Council action, but said she expects it to listen to US and South Korean concerns.
   
"We expect to be working with China as we move forward in fashioning a response to this provocation by North Korea."
   
The North says the South faked evidence of its involvement in the sinking in an attempt to fuel confrontation for domestic political reasons. It threatens "all-out war" against any punitive moves.
   
The regime announced late Tuesday that it was breaking all links in protest at Seoul's "smear campaign" and banning South Korean ships and planes from its territorial waters and airspace.
   
It said relations would remain severed while conservative President Lee Myung-Bak remains in power in Seoul.
   
"There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the Lee Myung-Bak group," a statement said.
   
The North notified the South early Wednesday that it had shut down two communication lines, but not one used for access to Kaesong where 42,000 North Koreans work in 110 South Korean-funded factories.
   
But later in the day its military threatened to block access to the industrial park if the loudspeaker broadcasts go ahead. The military also repeated a threat to open fire at the speakers.
   
The South has decided to resume the broadcasts after a lapse of six years as part of its reprisals and has begun installing loudspeakers.
   
The transport ministry in Seoul said it had already instructed South Korean airlines on Monday to avoid the North's airspace as tensions rose.

Date created : 2010-05-26

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