US on Wednesday termed as ‘odd’ North Korea’s decision to sever ties with South Korea over Seoul’s charges that it torpedoed one of its warships and said it was working closely with countries like China to see what can be done to have the ‘greatest impact’ on Pyongyang.
‘I can’t imagine a step that is less in the long-term interest of the North Korean people than cutting off further ties with South Korea,’ State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters.
“I think it’s odd,” he said when asked to comment on North Korea’s move to sever all ties with South Korea and abrogate the non-aggression pact.
“South Korea is one of the most dynamic economies in the world…North Korea is unable to care for its citizens. It is unable to feed its people,” Crowley said.
North Korea had yesterday announced its decision to sever ties with Seoul and abrogated the non-aggression pact protesting what it calls a premeditated plot to malign it over the ship-sinking episode.
South Korea has accused North Korea of sinking its warship, the Cheonan, in March and President Lee Myung-bak has called for sanctions against the country.
Crowley said the US did not want the current tensions in the Korean Peninsula to escalate into a military confrontation and warned North Korea of consequences.
“We have no interest in seeing further provocations. The Secretary (of State) made that clear in Beijing today. We are looking to see how we can influence North Korean thinking and, most importantly, North Korean behaviour.
“We’ll be working closely with our regional partners to see what should be done and what can be done to have the greatest impact on the North Korean leadership,” he said.
“There will be consequences for North Korea’s provocative action. We believe there should be a very strong, determined international response.”
The US is in constant contact with the South Korean leadership and those of China and its other international partners on this issue.
He said the US will looking at a variety of options and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has discussed the issue with her Chinese and Japanese counterparts.
Crowley said the US satisfied that China understands the situation.
“I think they understand and will understand how serious South Korea views this. We all want the same thing. We all want peace and stability in the region. There appears to be one country that doesn’t. That’s North Korea,” he said.
“We have worked closely and collaboratively in the past. We’ve sent strong messages to North Korea in the past. China has the same interest that we have,” he said.
It was valuable for Clinton to have a high-level discussions with President Hu Jintao and others in Beijing on the issue, he said.
The State Department spokesman said the US was looking at a range of options.
“There are things that we can do multilaterally. There are things that we can do unilaterally in terms of economic measures. We have done that successfully in the past,” he said.
Crowley said the US has found ways to influence the thinking and put pressure on the North Korean regime and if it thinks that there are options available to it that can deliver “that kind of stern message, we will not hesitate to take that kind of action.”
“We already have broad-based authorities under existing resolutions to take that kind of action and that’s what we have done in the past when we’ve seen these kinds of provocative actions by North Korea. We will not hesitate to do that again,” Crowley said.
North Korea had yesterday said it would completely halt the inter-Korean cooperation after international chorus grew in favour of imposition of sanctions against Pyongyang on the row over sinking of a South Korean naval vessel.