Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at 2:10 am UTC
Posted 47 minutes ago
U.S. President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea, but the U.S. is calling for a measured response to the North Korean artillery strike on a South Korean island.
The United States condemned Tuesday’s attack on Yeonpyeong island that killed two South Korean marines and wounded 18 people, including three civilians. The attack triggered an exchange of artillery fire that was one of the most dramatic confrontations between the two sides since the Korean War ended in 1953.
In an interview (with ABC News), Mr. Obama said he would not speculate about a military reaction and wants to first speak to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
President Obama met with his senior national security team Tuesday to discuss the situation. A White House statement released after the meeting said Mr. Obama reiterated the “unshakeable support” of the United States for South Korea.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led United Nations Command has called for talks with North Korea to calm tensions.
A statement from U.S. General Walter Sharp, who leads the U.N. Command and U.S. forces in South Korea, said North Korea should stop what he called “these unprovoked attacks” and abide by the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.
Earlier, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said President Obama was “outraged” by the attack and believes North Korea is not living up to its obligations under international law and the armistice.
North Korea launched the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong after warning Seoul to stop military exercises in the area, which Pyongyang claims as its territorial waters. South Korea refused and fired artillery into the waters, away from the North.
South Korea’s president called an emergency meeting of security officials and later accused the North of indiscriminately attacking civilians. He said such behavior will not be tolerated and warned of stern retaliation for further attacks.
The U.S. Defense Department said it is monitoring the situation and talking with its South Korean counterparts. But Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said it is premature to consider any U.S. action in response to the North Korean attack.
Lapan said none of the 25,000 U.S. troops in South Korea was involved in the South Korean military drills that preceded the exchange of fire.
South Korea says about 100 North Korean shells landed on or near Yeonpyeong, damaging homes belonging to its 1,600 residents and forcing them to evacuate to shelters. The South responded by firing 80 shells at North Korean positions across the border and sending fighter jets to the area.
The Associated Press quotes officials in Seoul as saying there could be considerable North Korean casualties from the battle, which lasted about an hour.
U.S. envoy on North Korean issues Stephen Bosworth discussed the incident Tuesday with Chinese officials in Beijing. He later said the United States and China agree that such conflict is “very undesirable” and that restraint is needed on both sides.
Pyongyang vowed to launch more “merciless military attacks” if South Korea keeps violating what it claims as North Korean territorial waters.