SEOUL, South Korea - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited South Korean leaders in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 14 to demonstrate American solidarity against North Korean provocations.

North Korea sank the South Korean ship Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors. In November, North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeongpeong, killing two civilians and two South Korean marines.

"We are all concerned about the tense situation on the peninsula caused by North Korea's continued belligerence and repeated provocations over the past few months," Gates said at the beginning of a meeting with Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.

During the meeting, Gates and Kim discussed South Korean-U.S. military coordination and consultations to deter future provocations.

Gates said diplomatic engagement is possible, starting with direct engagement between North Korea and South Korea, but only if "North Korea's actions show cause to believe that negotiations can be productive and conducted in good faith."

Following the meeting with Kim, Gates traveled to the Blue House and met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. He spoke to both Kim and Lee about his meetings with Chinese and Japanese leaders.

Earlier in the week, Gates said a moratorium on nuclear research and testing and a moratorium on building intercontinental ballistic missiles would be examples of concrete steps North Korea could take. Only with these concrete steps, he added, could the Six-Party Talks -- with the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea -- resume.

"But the [North Korean] leadership must stop these dangerous provocations and take concrete steps to show that they will begin meeting international obligations," Gates said.

The Six-Party Talks began in 2003 after North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In response to a United Nations Security Council presidential statement in April 2009 condemning a failed satellite launch, North Korea pulled out of the talks and announced it would resume its nuclear enrichment program.

Page last updated Fri January 14th, 2011 at 17:02