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article imageSouth Korea breaks trade ties with the North, 'tensions escalate'

By Christopher Szabo     May 24, 2010 in World
Seoul - The South Korean president has announced in a nationwide television address that his country was taking stern measures against North Korea in retaliation for the sinking of one of its naval patrol vessels in March.
The Voice of America said President Lee Myung-bak announced the North must pay for sinking a South Korean Navy patrol ship, the corvette Cheonan. 46 sailors lost their lives in the incident.
South Korea and an international investigation said there was evidence the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo.
The New York Times added this had sharply escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula. President Lee said South Korea would sever all trade with North Korea. In addition, no North Korean ships will be allowed into the territorial waters of South Korea, making them detour and use more fuel. A small amount of humanitarian aid would continue to go to impoverished North Korea. Lee said:
We have always tolerated North Korea’s brutality, time and again. But now things are different. North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts.
North Korea says the international committee’s finding that one of its submarines fired a torpedo at the Cheonan is a ”fabrication.”
President Lee pointed out that his country was not planning a military offensive against North Korea, but would defend itself if attacked.
Meanwhile US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking in the Chinese capital, Beijing, expressed support for South Korea’s declaration. She said:
The Republic of Korea can continue to count on the full support of the United States. Our support for South Korea’s defence is unequivocal.
Clinton is on a high-level visit to China, which has tried to stay neutral in the crisis. She told reporters:
I can say the Chinese recognize the gravity of the situation we face. This is a highly precarious situation that the North Koreans have caused in the region; it is one that every country that neighbours or is in proximity to North Korea understands must be contained.
North Korea in turn has warned South Korea not to place propaganda loudspeakers on its border; it will destroy them with artillery.
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