Shortly before Ri spoke, Clinton had lashed out against belligerent acts by the North, warning Pyongyang must reverse a “campaign of provocative, dangerous behavior” if it wants improved relations with its neighbors and the United States.
She said stability in the region, particularly on the Korean peninsula, depends in large part on persuading an “isolated and belligerent” North Korea to alter course and return to nuclear disarmament talks which it pulled out of last year.
Members of the U.S. and North Korean delegations did not meet at the annual ASEAN Regional Forum, which has in the past been a venue for talks between the two sides. The 27-member bloc — 10 members of ASEAN and countries with major interests in the area like the U.S., China, Japan, North and South Korea and Russia — expressed “deep concern” over the Cheonan’s sinking in a joint statement, a weakened version of an earlier ASEAN statement.
On Wednesday, Clinton announced in the South Korean capital that the U.S. would slap new sanctions on the North to stifle its nuclear ambitions and punish it for the ship sinking. The penalties will target the country’s elite by taking aim at illicit activities, such as counterfeiting cigarettes and cash and money laundering.
On Friday, the European Union said it will also consider imposing new sanctions on the North.
In addition to North Korea’s behavior and its nuclear program, Clinton raised concerns about potential atomic collaboration between the North and Myanmar, also known as Burma, which is restricted by U.N. agreements.
Numerous reports in past months have suggested that Myanmar’s military rulers are attempting to develop nuclear weapons with North Korean help.
Clinton lambasted Myanmar for its dismal human rights record and called on its military junta to hold free and fair elections this year and release political prisoners, including Nobel Peace laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
In an indication of increased involvement, Clinton said “the United States has a national interest” in resolving conflicting claims over the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the South China Sea, particularly between China and Vietnam.
She said the disputes interfere with maritime commerce, hamper access to international waters in the area and undermine the U.N. law of the sea.
Her remarks are likely to anger China, which asserts sovereignty over the whole South China Sea, but Clinton said the U.S. did not support any country’s sovereignty over the islands. She said the U.S. is willing to work with the all the parties, including Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines, to help negotiate an end to the disputes.
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Margie Mason and Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, and Jean H. Lee in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
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