The sinking of a South Korean warship has complicated an already strained relationship with North Korea, according to the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights issues.
Robert King told an audience at a Washington think tank on Wednesday that existing issues with the North have been made "much more complicated in the last month by the sinking of the Cheonan."
"That is going to create difficulties and questions in terms of how we proceed from this point forward," Mr. King said.
His comments came even as State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it was important to wait for a complete investigation into the Cheonan incident before predicting its consequences.
"The investigation on the ship sinking continues," Mr. Crowley said, adding, "Well draw conclusions once we understand what the investigation discovers … Let's find out and conclude what is responsible for the sinking of the ship, and well draw implications from that."
The spokesman declined to link a suspension of U.S. efforts to restart six-party talks with North Korea pending the results of the Cheonan investigation. He said the U.S. and its partners — South Korea, Japan, China and Russia — were committed to restarting talks on ending the North's nuclear weapons program.
Pressed on whether he suspected foul play in the Cheonan's sinking, Mr. Crowley said, "Ships dont normally sink of their own accord; they can occasionally. But thats one of the reasons why we are supporting the South Korean effort. The ship has been raised and we should be able to answer these questions in time."
The Cheonan sank on March 26 after an explosion in the Yellow Sea near the North Korean border. Forty-six South Korean sailors died in the incident.