North Korean attack must not go unanswered, warns Clinton
Pressure mounts on China to back sanctions after warship torpedoed
Published 22/05/2010 | 05:00
NORTH Korea yesterday faced further pressure from America over the sinking of a South Korean warship.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, urged China to back sanctions against Pyongyang as negotiations began over the torpedoing of the warship Cheonan.
"It's important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences," she said in Tokyo during a five-day Asia tour. "We cannot allow this attack to go unanswered."
China, a long-standing ally of North Korea, has refused to join condemnation of the attack, describing it only as "unfortunate" but urging on all sides.
Mrs Clinton said she was looking forward to "intensive consultations" with China.
The Asian superpower fears too much pressure on Pyongyang could destabilise the regime, precipitating chaos on its borders. North Korea has threatened "all-out war" if the South retaliates.
As tensions mounted, South Korea promised to act "prudently" a day after an inter-national inquiry found North Korea guilty of the torpedoing, despite strong denials.
"This incident is so serious and grave that we must be cautious and prudent," said South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak.
He is expected to press the United Nations to tighten further existing economic sanctions against the North.
He added that the sinking of the Cheonan was an "armed provocation" that breached the Charter of the UN and the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
The international United Nations Command (UNC), which polices the Korean truce, said it would launch a review of the investigation to determine "the scope of armistice violation", paving the way for the issue to be raised at the UN.
However, with North-South relations more delicately poised than at any time in the last decade, analysts in China warned against expecting too much, too quickly, from China.
"North Korea is the issue that stands out as the most contentious diplomatic issue," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international security at Renmin University in Beijing.
"But, however much they talk about it in private, China will keep public statements on North Korea to a minimum.
"There's only trouble for China in becoming tangled up with the Cheonan."
Despite an apparent wealth of evidence, including the discovery of the tail section of a North Korean torpedo at the scene, Pyongyang has continued to deny responsibility for the attack, attempting to rubbish the findings of the international inquiry.
"It just produced fragments and pieces of aluminium, whose origin remains unknown, as 'evidence'," a North Korean spokesman said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)