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June 16, 2010

US, Seoul Cooperating on Warship Sinking Response

As South Korea pushes the United Nations Security Council to censure North Korea, a senior American diplomat is reiterating Washington's full cooperation with Seoul.

The United States and South Korea are calling their mutual response to the sinking of the Cheonan warship a "defining moment" for their alliance.

The statement was issued following talks here between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and top South Korean Foreign Ministry officials Thursday.

Campbell says the two governments are working together during what he calls an "absolutely critical period" in the relationship between Seoul and Washington.

"We face North Korean provocations from a position of profound strength.  And, the strength and resolve of our position will be demonstrated in a number of ways in the coming days," he said.

Campbell explains that those include a possible condemnation of Pyongyang by the United Nations Security Council, bilateral actions - which he did not specify - and what he terms "appropriate and responsible" joint military activities.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon says the visiting American envoy stressed the United States is taking seriously the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan.

Lee expresses appreciation for Washington's support of Seoul's stance and policy towards Pyongyang in wake of the attack.

However, some planned responses appear to have been tempered.  South Korea vowed to quickly re-start propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts along the border.  It has as yet to happen.  Seoul also announced joint maritime maneuvers with the U.S. Navy, which officials here say have now been twice delayed.

Campbell says he sees no sign of the South Korean government wavering in its response.

North Korea has denied responsibility for the explosion which sank the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. It calls South Korea's punitive responses, including pushing the United Nations to censure Pyongyang, provocative acts that could lead to war.