The United States on Wednesday rejected a call by North Korea for a new investigation of the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that Seoul blames on Pyongyang. The U.S. said the findings of a South Korean inquiry that attributes the attack to North Korea are "compelling."
The State Department said another investigation of the sinking is unwarranted and the focus of the world community should now be on coming up with an appropriate response to Pyongyang's provocative behavior.
The comments follow a North Korean request to the U.N. Security Council for a new inquiry into the March 26 sinking of the South Korean navy ship, the Cheonan. Pyongyang wants another investigation under U.N. auspices in which both North and South Korea would participate.
A South Korean inquiry that included international experts determined in May that a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan, killing 46 crew members.
Pyongyang denies responsibility and said in a letter to the Security Council that the most reasonable way to settle the matter is for the two Koreas to conduct a joint investigation.
At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States "sees no ambiguity" about who sank the ship and that it is time for North Korea to accept responsibility.
"There has been a thorough investigation of the sinking of the Cheonan and the evidence that was assembled during that investigation points clearly to North Korea and a North Korean torpedo," said Crowley. "We don't think that at this point that another investigation is warranted. South Korea led the investigation. It included international participation. We think the result is clear and compelling."
Crowley said U.S. diplomats continue contacts at the United Nations on an appropriate and timely response to the incident. He said it is more important now that North Korea be accountable and seek better relations with its neighbors.
U.S. officials have not specified what kind of outcome in the Security Council would constitute an appropriate response.
China has been ambiguous about blame for the Cheonan sinking and, as a permanent Security Council member, could veto a resolution condemning Pyongyang. At the G-20 summit last weekend, President Barack Obama said that China was showing "willful blindness" about North Korea's behavior. A Chinese spokesman responded on Wednesday saying that Beijing has to be cautious and does not want to "pour petrol on the flames."
U.S. officials privately express concerns that North Korea, facing international isolation over the naval incident, might lash out with other aggressive actions.
In a show of resolve, it was announced Saturday that the United States will retain control of joint forces on the Korean Peninsula until 2015, instead of yielding authority to South Korea in 2012, as had been planned.
The Obama administration also said it will make a new push for a free trade accord with South Korea that has been stalled in the U.S. Congress.
Meanwhile, a senior South Korean official, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Wi Sung-lac, held meetings on North Korea here this week with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell and U.S. envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth.