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US Dept of Defense - Asia-Pacific Nations Must Address Provocations, Gates Says

Asian nations must act in the face of provocations as part of their responsibility to preserve peace and reinforce regional stability, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

In remarks opening the first plenary session of the “Shangri-La Dialogue,” an Asia security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Gates specifically referred to North Korea’s sinking of the freighter Cheonan on March 26 that left 46 South Korean sailors dead.

“This sinking is far more than a single, isolated incident with tragic results for the sailors and their families,” he said. “It is, rather, part of a larger pattern of provocative and reckless behavior. As I pointed out last year at this forum, North Korea has for some time faced the choice of continuing as a destitute, international pariah or charting a new path. Since then, the North Korean regime has only further isolated itself from the international community.”

The United States and other nations have consulted closely with South Korean officials since the sinking, Gates said.

“My government has offered full support to our ally in this difficult hour,” he said. “We will conduct combined military exercises with South Korea and support action in the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, we are assessing additional options to hold North Korea accountable.”

All nations in the region share the task of addressing such provocations, the secretary said. “Inaction would amount to an abdication of our collective responsibility to protect the peace and reinforce stability in Asia,” he said. “North Korea must cease its belligerent behavior and demonstrate clearly and decisively that it wants to pursue a different path.”

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