Hillary condemns N Korea at start of Asia tour

A multinational panel has blamed N Korea for a torpedo attack on South ship.

Updated: May 21, 2010, 16:36 PM IST

Tokyo: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Japanese counterpart on Friday both condemned North Korea after a multinational panel blamed it for a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship.

In their joint stance against the nuclear-armed communist regime, both sides stressed the importance of their alliance, which has been badly strained in recent months by a dispute over an unpopular US military base.

Hillary, kicking off a week-long Asia tour, called their alliance the "cornerstone" of regional stability, as she sent a stern message to Pyongyang on the issue expected to dominate her talks later in Beijing and Seoul.

"We agreed that North Korea must stop its provocative behaviour, halt its policy of threats and belligerence towards its neighbours, and take irreversible steps to fulfil its denuclear commitments and comply with international law," she said after meeting Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

"We cannot allow this attack to go unanswered by the international community," she said, adding that on the Beijing leg of her trip from Monday she looked forward to intensive consultations in China.

A multinational panel on Thursday blamed North Korea for sinking a South Korean warship with a torpedo in March, claiming 46 lives -- prompting an angry denial from Pyongyang and a threat of war if its punished.

Other world powers, including Britain and France, have also strongly condemned the reclusive regime and are expected to back any push for fresh sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council.

China -- one of the five veto-wielding permanent members -- has so far called for more evidence and urged calm, suggesting it will not jump to punish its communist neighbour, whose leader recently visited Beijing.

Bureau Report