Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States fully supports the measures South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's has announced in response to a North Korean attack on one of the south's warships. Speaking in the Chinese capital Monday, Clinton said if the evidence warrants, the United States could put Pyongyang back on its list of states that sponsor terrorism.
Secretary Clinton says Washington and Seoul are in close consultation on the situation. Echoing a White House statement, she says the steps President Lee took were "prudent and entirely appropriate."
President Lee announced Monday his country would sever most trade ties with the North and bar its ships from its waters. He also said South Korea would seek to get the issue raised at the United Nations Security Council, where Pyongyang could face new sanctions.
Secretary Clinton says the U.S. firmly supports those moves.
"First, we endorse President Lee's call on North Korea to come forward with the facts regarding this act of aggression and, above all, stop its belligerence and threatening behavior," said Clinton. "Second, our support for South Korea's defense is unequivocal, and President Obama has directed his military commanders to coordinate closely with their Korean counterparts to ensure readiness and to deter future aggression."
She says the United States and South Korea will explore further enhancements to its joint military posture on the Korean Peninsula.
Additionally, she says that President Barack Obama directed U.S. government agencies to review their existing authorities and policies related to North Korea, to ensure that they have "adequate measures in place," and to identify areas where adjustments would be appropriate.
When asked by a reporter if that included possibly re-designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, she said the United States will "apply the law as the facts warrant."
"If the evidence warrants, the Department of State will take action," she said.
Secretary Clinton was speaking in the margins of high-level political and economic talks between the United States and China. China has come under some criticism because it has been slow to respond to the attack on South Korea and has not publicly accepted that the North is to blame.
Clinton says that she having very intensive consultations with the Chinese government on the issue, but will not discuss the details of those discussions. She did say that Beijing recognizes "the gravity of the situation" and understands South Korea's reaction. She added that the situation is highly precarious and the United States is working hard to avoid an escalation of belligerence and provocation.
An international investigation determined last week that a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship last March, killing 46 sailors.