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Lee: N Korea must pay for torpedo attack

US weighs in on the sinking of a South Korean warship as the country's president warns his nation will no longer tolerate North Korea's "brutality".

South Korea's president said his nation will no longer tolerate North Korea's "brutality" and the regime would pay for a surprise torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors. President Lee Myung-bak vowed to take Pyongyang to the UN Security Council for punishment over the March 26 sinking of the warship. He also said Seoul would also cut all trade with the impoverished regime - part of measures primarily aimed at striking back at the isolated wartime foe diplomatically and financially. US President Barack Obama has ordered the US military to work closely with South Korea "to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," according to the White House, AFP reported. "US support for South Korea's defence is unequivocal, and the president has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Republic of Korea counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a written statement. "We will build on an already strong foundation of excellent cooperation between our militaries and explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the peninsula as part of our ongoing dialogue."

In Beijing, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Pyongyang must be held accountable for the sinking of the Cheonan, and pushed to get China's support of diplomatic action. China, a veto-wielding permanent seat holder on the Security Council and North Korea's main ally and benefactor, has refrained from criticising the neighboring nation.

The March sinking of the Cheonan was South Korea's worst military disaster since the 1950-53 Korean War. Fifty-eight sailors were rescued from the choppy Yellow Sea waters near the Koreas' maritime border, but 46 perished. An international team of investigators concluded last week that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that tore the ship in two. Mr Lee, addressing the nation from the War Memorial, called it a "military provocation" that was part of an "incessant" pattern of attacks by communist North Korea, including the downing of an airliner in 1987 that killed 115 people.

"We have always tolerated North Korea's brutality, time and again. We did so because we have always had a genuine longing for peace on the Korean peninsula," Mr Lee said. "But now things are different. North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts," he said. "I will continue to take stern measures to hold the North accountable." The truce signed in 1953 prevents South Korea from taking unilateral military action. However, Mr Lee said South Korea was prepared to defend itself from further provocations.

The UN Armistice Commission was investigating whether the sinking of the Cheonan violated the armistice. North Korea has steadfastly denied responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan. *AP

Published: May 24, 2010 04:00 AM

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