Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves Washington on Thursday for an Asian tour set to be dominated by the results of a probe that found North Korea attacked and sunk a South Korean warship.
The culmination of the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan has thrust its way to the top of Hillary’s program, which was originally to centre on the US-China economic and strategic dialogue in Beijing on May 24-25.
A multinational team of investigators announced on Thursday that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine sunk the South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors in one of the country`s worst naval tragedies.
"The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine," the team said in its report on the March 26 sinking that split the 1,200-tonne corvette in half near the two Koreas` disputed border. "There is no other plausible explanation."
The announcement drew international condemnation of North Korea, and Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for Asia, said "assessments of developments in North Korea and their reaction to the report" would now be a "central issue of discussion" in Hillary`s talks with and Chinese officials.
The ship`s sinking is expected to be raised before the UN Security Council.
"One of the reasons Secretary (Hillary) Clinton is travelling to the region, to both Japan and South Korea, is to articulate and put in place a set of responses" to the investigation`s findings, Campbell said of the chief US diplomat`s fifth trip to Asia since taking office more than a year ago.
The responses could be presented on May 26 in Seoul, the last stop on Hillary`s nearly week-long tour that will also take her to Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing.
Praising the report into the Cheonan`s sinking as an "objective and scientific review of the evidence," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the United States "strongly condemns" the attack.