President Obama released a statement this morning saying he “fully supports” President Lee Myung-Bak’s request that the United Nations Security Council take punitive action over North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan (North Korea has denied responsibility for the sinking of the vessel on March 26, which left 46 sailors dead). Mr. Obama also said that the United States support for South Korea’s defense is ‘unequivocal’.
Here’s the full statement on the Cheonan incident from the White House:
“President Obama fully supports President Lee in his handling of the ROKS Cheonan incident and the objective investigation that followed. The measures that the government of the Republic of Korea announced today are called for and entirely appropriate. The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States, as President Obama has made clear.
“Specifically, we endorse President Lee’s demand that North Korea immediately apologize and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behavior. U.S. support for South Korea’s defense 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. 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.
“As President Lee stated in his address earlier today, the Republic of Korea intends to bring this issue to the United Nations Security Council. We support this move. Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice are each consulting very closely with their Korean counterparts, as well as with Japan, China, and other UN Security Council member states in order to reach agreement on the steps in the Council.
“In response to the pattern of North Korean provocation and defiance of international law, the President has directed U.S. government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to the DPRK. This review is aimed at ensuring that we have adequate measures in place and to identify areas where adjustments would be appropriate.
“The U.S. will continue to work with the Republic of Korea and other allies and partners to reduce the threat that North Korea poses to regional stability. Secretary Clinton is currently in Beijing and she will travel to Seoul for discussions with President Lee and his senior advisors on May 26 before reporting back to the President on her consultations in the region. Secretary Gates is in close contact with ROK Defense Minister Kim and will meet with him and other counterparts at the June 4-6 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. President Obama and President Lee agreed to meet in Canada at the time of the G-20 Summit.”
Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton briefing traveling press on the republic of Korea said today that “President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression. As part of our ongoing dialogue, we will explore further enhancements to our joint posture on the Peninsula.”