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(2nd LD) S. Korean foreign minister says N. Korean attack 'obvious'

All Headlines 16:11 May 19, 2010

(ATTN: ADDS comments by vice unification minister; CHANGES slug; RESTRUCTURES; ADDS time element in lead, background)
By Sam Kim

SEOUL, May 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Wednesday the cause of the deadly sinking of a warship in March "came to clear light," calling North Korea's involvement "obvious."

His comments came a day before South Korea discloses the results of a multinational investigation into the March 26 sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan near the western sea border with North Korea.

Yu said in a speech to European diplomats and business officials that the probe indicates the ship sank due to "a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a torpedo."

Asked by reporters whether he believes the sinking was caused by a North Korean attack, Yu said, "It's obvious."

Forty-six crew members died in the tragedy, which has sparked nationwide mourning here. Seoul has pledged a strong response and plans to bring the case to the U.N. Security Council if Pyongyang is found responsible. The North denies any role.

South Korea will take "appropriate measures in a firm and prudent manner," Yu told members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

The measures are "needed to deter any future provocations which will undermine peace and stability in Northeast Asia, thereby representing an opportunity to create more stable regional order," he said.

His ministry has been inviting envoys of dozens of regional associations and countries this week to reveal the results of the probe. On Tuesday, the ministry briefed the ambassadors of China, Russia and Japan, three neighboring countries involved in a six-nation forum aimed at denuclearizing North Korea.

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say they will not agree to the resumption of talks until the probe ends. South Korean officials said Wednesday that investigators found a serial number marked on torpedo propeller fragments collected from the scene of the sinking, the latest evidence pointing to a North Korean submarine attack.

In a separate speech on Wednesday, South Korean Vice Unification Minister Um Jong-sik said the sinking "shows the cruel reality of the division and the reality of security on the Korean Peninsula.

"Improvement in inter-Korean relations cannot be expected while national security is threatened," he said.

Since last week, South Korea has stopped funding any government-level exchanges with North Korea and urged hundreds of companies doing business with the communist neighbor to not push new ventures.

Deteriorating relations have exacerbated anxiety among more than 110 South Korean manufacturing firms operating in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. Over 42,000 North Koreans work in the complex, which is considered the last remaining reconciliation symbol.

"We're standing at a very important moment in national security," Um said, urging South Koreans to unite ahead of planned actions by the government.


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