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Clinton Condemns N. Korean Sinking of South's Ship; Promises International Response

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the evidence that a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean navy ship is "overwhelming and condemning." Clinton made the comments during a brief stop in Tokyo Friday, where she met with her Japanese counterpart and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Secretary Clinton expressed the United States' strong condemnation of the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship. The torpedo, launched from a North Korean submarine, sunk the Cheonan and killed 46 sailors.

Clinton said she and her Japanese counterpart, Katsuya Okada, discussed the situation, which has raised tensions on the Korean peninsula. "We agree that North Korea must stop its provocative behavior, halt its policy of threats of belligerence towards its neighbors, and take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law," she said.

Clinton said she plans in-depth consultations in the coming days with regional allies China and South Korea to determine the international response to the North Korean attack. But when asked by a reporter what options the international community has in responding to North Korea, she said it was too premature to make any announcements.

"I think it is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences. We cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by the international community. So we will determine our best options moving forward and send a clear, unmistakable message to North Korea regarding the international community's and its neighbors' concerns about its behavior," she said

On Thursday, South Korea released the results of an international investigation which found that a torpedo fired from the North Korean submarine sunk the ship.

North Korea has rejected the findings as a "fabrication" and has vowed to respond to any potential retaliation with "all out war."

In addition to the South Korean issue, Clinton and Okada discussed the future of a U.S. military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

When he took power last year, Prime Minister Hatoyama promised to move the base off the island but has since gone back on that pledge, garnering much public outrage manifested in his falling approval ratings.

Locals say the Futenma Air Base, is, among other things, too close to residential areas and causes excessive noise.

During a joint news conference with Secretary Clinton, Foreign Minister Okada said the government is continuing negotiations with the United States on resolving the issue, and he hopes to do so by the end of the month. He is heard here through a translator speaking about the importance of the base in light of the recent tensions between North and South Korea.

"In the current security environment, the presence of U.S. forces is indispensable for the security and stability of Japan, but not only just that - but the region's stability," he said.

Secretary Clinton said the United States wants to see an "operationally viable and politically sustainable" solution.

Clinton's next stop is China, where she will visit the Shanghai Expo and then go on to Beijing for high-level economic and political talks.