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Obama, Advisers Discuss Korea Situation

President Barack Obama discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula with key advisers on Monday, after the United States issued a strong statement of support for South Korea's decision to freeze trade with North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

After the United States issued an unusually early morning statement Monday voicing strong support for South Korea's response, and unequivocal support for South Korea's defense, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president discussed the situation with his national security team.

The White House statement described the sinking of a South Korean naval ship, which a multilateral investigative report blamed on a North Korean torpedo, as "part of a pattern of North Korean provocation and defiance of international law".

While most of Monday's daily White House briefing was taken up with discussion of the deep sea oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, Gibbs referred to the earlier statement and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's travels in China and scheduled talks in Seoul with President Lee Myung-bak.

"We believe that North Korea should stop its belligerent and threatening behavior," said Robert Gibbs. "We support President Lee's actions. Secretary Clinton will be traveling to the region and [will] see President Lee very shortly."

When she returns from her Asia trip, Secretary Clinton will brief the president on her consultations.
The Pentagon announced Monday that the U.S. and South Korea will hold joint anti-submarine and other military exercises.

In retaliatory steps announced Monday, South Korea said it will end all trade and exchanges and bar North Korean ships from South Korean waters. South Korea said it would also refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea, which has denied destroying the South Korean vessel, has threatened to retaliate for any action against it in response to the sinking of the ship, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The Korean situation was also likely a subject of the meeting President Obama had at the White House with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and the White House statement looked ahead to talks the president will have at the end of June in Toronto at the G-20 summit.