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U.S. ambassador to Seoul calls N. Korea artillery attack "outrageous," reaffirms U.S. commitment
SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- The top U.S. envoy to Seoul called a recent North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island "outrageous" and "terrible," and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea.

   In a posting titled "An Outrageous Attack" on the official U.S. Embassy blog ( earlier this week, Amb. Kathleen Stephens wrote that the North Korean firing on Yeonpyeong Island "has outraged the world."

   "On behalf of the United States and the U.S. Embassy in Korea, I wish to express my solidarity and sympathy, to the residents of Yeonpyeong Island, and to all Korean citizens," Stephens wrote.

   The Nov. 23 on the island near the tense western sea border claimed lives of two marines and two civilians, and forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.

   The ambassador wrote that both the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Forces Korea are working closely with their South Korean counterparts to "underscore our commitment to peace and security in the region."

   "We have many challenges ahead of us, but as President Obama said in his visit to Korea earlier this month, "we can never say it enough -- the United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea," Stephens wrote, referring to South Korea by its official name.

   Stephens also expressed concerns about North Korea's recent claim that it is running a uranium enrichment program to produce nuclear weapons, saying, "If true, such a program contradicts North Korea's own pledges and international obligations." In a September 2005 joint statement, reached after a round of six-party denuclearization talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, Japan and China, North Korea pledged to abandon nuclear programs in exchange for security guarantees, energy and economic aid.

   "Let us speak with one voice in persuading the leadership in Pyongyang that its future must lie in taking concrete, irreversible steps toward implementation of its commitments in the 2005 Joint Statement of Principles, in complying with international law, including UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, in ceasing provocative behaviors, and in improving relations with its neighbors, notably including the Republic of Korea," Stephens wrote.