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November 27, 2010

US Senators Affirm US Ties with South Korea

U.S. senators of both political parties are resolutely reaffirming America's historic ties with South Korea, amid heightened tensions between North and South Korea.

The affirmation was expressed by two high-ranking senators appearing on U.S. television Sunday following last week's shelling of a South Korean island by North Korean artillery.

Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on NBC's Meet the Press program. "At this point in time, we need to make certain we stand as one nation, strong in our alliance with South Korea, determined to stop this effort by North Korea to provoke aggression."

The United States and South Korea have begun planned joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea, prompting expressions of disapproval from Pyongyang, which has warned that the two Koreas are on the "brink of war."

But those exercises are more important now than ever, according to Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona, who also appeared on Meet the Press.

"What we ought to do is what we are doing right now, and that is not backing down in terms of having very legitimate [military] exercises with the South Korean government, which we gave plenty of advance notice of. Obviously, we are not trying to provoke anything there. But with news that the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) just released a report detailing how North Korea was proliferating nuclear technology to Iran and Syria, clearly this is a country that needs to be dealt with."

Chinese officials say they will try to ease the confrontation between the Koreas, and have urged the heads of delegations of the six-party talks on North Korean de-nuclearization to meet next month.

Senator Durbin did not comment on the proposal, but welcomed any Chinese attempt to ease tensions on the Korea peninsula.

"I spoke with Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton last night about this, and we both agree that China can play a valuable role here in trying to control a situation that is very volatile."

South Korea's foreign ministry said Seoul will study China's invitation carefully because of concerns about North Korea's recent revelation of having a new uranium enrichment facility.