US Offers to Help Find Cause of Ship Sinking
Obama Reaffirms Pledge to Provide Extended Nuclear Deterrence for South Korea
By Na Jeong-ju
U.S. President Barack Obama has offered to help South Korea find the exact cause of the sinking of the ROK Navy frigate Cheonan last Friday near the sea border with North Korea, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday.
President Lee Myung-bak and Obama had a 20-minute telephone conversation early Thursday to discuss the disaster and the U.S. provision of an extended nuclear umbrella to allies around the world.
Lee and Obama shared common understanding that global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction should be stronger.
The U.S. President reaffirmed his earlier pledge to provide an extended nuclear deterrence for South Korea to counter North Korea's threats, said Cheong Wa Dae.
The leaders also discussed the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit slated for April 12 in Washington. Leaders from more than 40 states are expected to attend the summit to focus on nuclear nonproliferation and terrorist groups, as well as North Korea and Iran.
Expressing his deep condolences to the Korean people and the families of missing sailors, Obama said his country was willing to help South Korea find out why and how the 1,200-ton ship suddenly sank, leaving 46 of the 104-man crew missing.
"I want to be a help when it is needed. I'm ready to help at any time. Just tell me," Obama said, according a transcript released by the South Korean presidential office.
The U.S. President offered to supply equipment needed for a scientific investigation and military experts.
President Lee thanked the U.S. for joining search and rescue operations in the West Sea, saying it was quite meaningful for the two allies to work together at a difficult time.
U.S. Navy vessels are currently working with the South Korean Navy to search for the missing sailors and to recover the sunken vessel.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, called his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Lee Sang-eui, Sunday to express his sorrow and sympathy for the wounded and missing sailors, their families and friends.
The U.S. has said it has no evidence showing North Korea's involvement, but some local media, citing anonymous sources, raised the possibility of an attack on the Cheonan, which defense officials here claim was on a routine patrol mission.
Some families of the missing sailors have alleged that the ship, built in 1989 by a now-defunct South Korean shipbuilder, was too old and seriously damaged to conduct a mission and needed repairs.
Like a bridge or a building with structural problems that collapses suddenly, the ship was torn in two abruptly that night due to a so-called fatigue fracture, according to some naval experts. The military has ignored this opinion.
The White House said Obama called Lee to offer his support and condolences following the naval disaster.
"President Obama told President Lee that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the families of those missing and with the family of the South Korean Navy diver who died trying to rescue them," spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
"The President told Lee that the U.S. was prepared to provide further help if needed for the rescue and recovery effort."
미, 함정 침몰원인 조사 협조
청와대는 목요일 버락 오바마 미 대통령이 지난 금요일 침몰한 초계함 천안호의 정확한 원인을 찾는데 돕겠다는 제안이 있었다고 밝혔다.
이명박 대통령과 오바마 대통령은 이날 오전 20분 간의 전화 통화에서 이 사고에 대해 의견을 나누고 미국이 전 세계 우방국들에게 핵우산을 확대할 것을 논의했다. 양국 대통령은 핵탄두 등 대량 살상 무기의 확산을 막는 전 세계적인 노력이 더욱 강력해져야 한다는데 상호 이해를 같이 했다.
오바마 대통령은 한국의 대북 핵 억제력을 확대하겠다는 다짐을 재확인했다고 청와대는 밝혔다.
양국 지도자는 또한 4월 12일 워싱턴에서 열릴 예정인 핵안보 정상회담에 관해 논의했다. 40여 개 국 정상들이 핵 비확산과 북한 및 이란 등 테러국들에 초점을 맞춘 정상회담에 참석할 예정이다.
한국 국민과 실종 승조원 가족들에게 깊은 애도를 표하면서 오바마 대통령은 왜 그리고 어떻게 104명의 승조원 중 46명이 실종된 이 1,200톤 급 함정이 침몰했는지를 밝히기 위해 미국이 도와줄 의향이 있다고 말했다.