Hatoyama slams North over Cheonan sinking


Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Thursday denounced the sinking of a South Korean warship that Seoul has blamed on North Korea but did not elaborate on how Japan might respond to the incident.

“Our country strongly supports South Korea,” Hatoyama said in a written statement. “North Korea’s action is inexcusable and, along with the international community, we strongly condemn it.”

The statement followed a report by the South Korean military and private-sector experts that concluded North Korean forces had used a torpedo to sink the corvette Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

Praising the report as “scientific and objective,” Hatoyama said Japan would cooperate with South Korea, the United States and other parties involved “for the peace and security of the region.”

Pyongyang immediately denied the allegation. According to Yonhap news agency, Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission released a statement Thursday saying it would take “tough measures, including an all-out war,” if any sanctions are imposed over the sinking.

“I don’t think I should be predicting what will happen,” Okada said. “But various things could happen and the Japanese government needs to take firm measures.”

Okada said Tokyo will wait for a reaction from Seoul that is expected to be outlined in a speech by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on Monday.

“I think what is necessary, first of all, is that the international community acts in unison,” Okada told reporters Thursday afternoon.

“One possibility is taking this issue up in the United Nations Security Council, and I think Japan should work closely with South Korea and the U.S.”

The sinking signals a major setback in trying to restart the six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea.

“I don’t think the six-party talks will be held immediately and I think the U.S. is in agreement,” Okada said. “Taking firm measures against this issue comes first.”