Washington: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has reaffirmed the US’ commitment to defend South Korea and other Asian allies against provocations from North Korea.
"An important element this time will be to reassure the South Koreans of our support as they face these provocations and a (North Korea) that seems even more unpredictable than usual," Gates told reporters aboard a flight to Singapore, where he is to attend a three-day regional security dialogue, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.
Gates made his remarks while addressing the alleged North`s torpedoing of the South Korean frigate Cheonan in the Yellow Sea in March.
The annual security forum of defence ministers from 28 countries, commonly called the Shangri-La Dialogue, is likely to be overshadowed by the Cheonan incident, as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is to make a rare appearance to summon international support for his bid to condemn North Korea at the UN Security Council.
Seoul officials are likely bring the case to the Security Council in a few days, although China and Russia, two veto-wielding powers on the council, have yet to officially blame Pyongyang for the incident.
South Korean officials have said they will seek to send a symbolic and political message to North Korea rather than additional sanctions. North Korea is already subject to an overall arms and economic embargo for its nuclear and missile tests.
"We expect the Security Council to send a political, symbolic and moral message that such acts as the Cheonan incident cannot be tolerated and that North Korea should be held accountable and should not repeat this kind of military provocation," South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo said on Monday.