Washington: Responding to the announcement of “far-reaching trade restrictions” by South Korea against North Korea, the White House on Monday said President Obama “fully supports President Lee in his handling of the ROKS Cheonan incident and the objective investigation that followed.”
South Korea's announcement of trade restrictions — as well as a warning that it was prepared to use military force in case of further provocations — came days after South Korea claimed that its neighbour to the north torpedoed and sank a South Korean vessel, killing 46 sailors.
In a statement, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the measures that the government of South Korea announced were called for and entirely appropriate.
A White House official confirmed to The Hindu that U.S. support to South Korea included the trade restrictions announcement.
Emphasising that South Korea could count on the full support of the U.S., Mr. Gibbs noted, “Specifically, we endorse President Lee's demand that North Korea immediately apologise and punish those responsible for the attack, and, most importantly, stop its belligerent and threatening behaviour.”
Mr. Gibbs also explained that given the U.S.' “unequivocal” support in South Korea's defence, President Obama had directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their South Korean counterparts to “ensure readiness and to deter future aggression”.
The White House also said the administration supported South Korean President Lee's intention to bring the issue to the United Nations Security Council. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice were separately consulting “very closely” with Japan, China, and other U.N. Security Council member states, the White House noted.
In response to the pattern of North Korean provocation and defiance of international law, Mr. Obama has directed U.S. government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to North Korea, he said.
Ms. Clinton, who is in Beijing, will travel to Seoul for discussions with President Lee on May 26 before reporting back to Mr. Obama.
Also, Defence Secretary Robert Gates was said to be in “close contact” with South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young and will meet him at the June 4-6 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Lee agreed to meet in Canada at the time of the G-20 Summit, according to the White House.