(CNSNews.com) – Arriving in South Korea after intensive talks in China on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned what she called “an unacceptable provocation by North Korea” –- the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
“[T]he international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Clinton said, without specifying what the “strong but measured response” should be.
Speaking at a joint news conference with her South Korean counterpart Yu Myung-hwan, Clinton said the United States would discuss the international response to North Korea’s aggression with South Korea and members of the U.N. Security Council. "We're very confident in the South Korean leadership, and their decision about how and when to move forward is one that we respect and will support," she said.
An international investigative team convened by the South Korean government announced last week that a North Korean torpedo was responsible for the sinking on March 26 of the navy corvette, Cheonan. The North denies it was responsible for the incident, which killed 46 sailors.
On Wednesday, one day after North Korea threatened to sever all remaining ties with South Korea, North Korea did not prevent South Korean employees from entering a joint industrial project that employs thousands of North Koreans.
The Stalinist regime warned, however, that it would bar entry to South Koreans if Seoul resumes anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts along their shared border.
A resumption of the loudspeaker broadcasts, which were suspended in 2004 amid improving inter-Korean ties, was one of the steps announced by South Korean President Lee Myun-bak on Monday, after an investigation accused the North of torpedoing of a South Korean warship.
Although the South Korean government said citizens from the South were granted entry to the joint project in Kaesong, eight South Korean government officials based there were reportedly ordered to leave on Wednesday.
Located several miles north of the demilitarized zone, the Kaesong industrial complex was designed to symbolize inter-Korean harmony and help the impoverished North to earn foreign currency.
Pyongyang has restricted movements at the site during previous times of tension, but its shutdown would deprive more than 40,000 North Koreans of employment at South Korean-owned factories.
In addition to the punitive measures announced on Monday – including the suspension of trade, and the holding of anti-submarine exercises with the U.S. – Lee was reported Tuesday to have approved the re-adoption of the term “main enemy” to describe North Korea.
For years, national security legislation identified North Korea as the “main enemy” but conservative Lee’s liberal predecessor dropped the term in a 2004 defense white paper, a gesture in line with the same “sunshine” policy of reconciliation that birthed the Kaesong project and saw the anti-Pyongyang propaganda campaign suspended.
In place of the “main enemy” tag, official documents stated that North Korea’s armed forces and non-conventional weapons posed a “direct threat” to the South’s security.
Pyongyang closely monitors statements from Seoul, and when the Lee administration’s defense minister in mid-2008 called North Korea “a present enemy,” the North called the remark “unpardonable provocation” and “nothing less than a declaration of war.”
Earlier this month, amid reports that Seoul was considering returning to the “main enemy” designation, a North Korean mouthpiece said the move would be “an intolerable act of treason, arousing the indignation of our armed forces and people.”
Plans to resume anti-Pyongyang broadcasts also have angered the North.
“If South Korea sets up new tools for psychological warfare such as loudspeakers and leaves slogans for psychological warfare intact, ignoring our demands, we will directly aim and open fire to destroy them,” North Korea said in a statement released by the official KCNA news agency.
The “Sound of Freedom” messages blasted through dozens of loudspeakers can reportedly be heard up to 15 miles inside North Korean territory. Before they were suspended in 2004 they had reportedly been sent for more than four decades.
As the war of words continues, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pressed the Chinese government to support punitive steps against North Korea over the ship sinking.
Despite her appeals China, North Korea’s closest diplomatic and economic partner, has so far limited its response to a call for restraint.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu on Tuesday repeated the call. In a comment that could equally apply to North Korea’s actions or retaliatory steps, she told a press briefing, “China is resolutely against any behavior which is in violation of peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
“China’s behavior thus far regarding the Cheonan has been clumsy, weak, and anachronistic,” said Victor Cha, a Korea specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It has basically acted like North Korea’s defense lawyer in the public arena and tried to maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula.”