U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is urging the Obama administration to stand firm with South Korea and her allies after armed conflict broke out earlier this week, saying the United States should expect a "strong and forceful" response from South Korea.
A member of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, Chambliss decried North Korea's attack, calling it another example of how the Communist nation continues to defy the will of the international community.
"North Korea has a long history of taking hostile actions against its neighbors to the south. North Korea also continues to defy the international community with its nuclear weapons program. The United States should stand ready to support South Korea and other Allies in the region, and I encourage the administration to work with our friends and Allies in the region to deter North Korea from its aggressive behavior."
At least four people were killed and dozens more injured when North Korean forces began shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong Tuesday.
South Korea responded with a light artillery barrage of its own, inflicting unknown damage to their northern counterpart. It was the most brazen show of force since an uneasy truce was forged at the end of the Korean Conflict in 1953.
Referring to an attack earlier this year in which North Korea was blamed for the sinking of a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors, Chambliss said South Korea should be expected to defend itself.
"This is the second recent attack by North Korea on South Korea and we should expect South Korea to retaliate in a strong and forceful way and be prepared to stand behind their action."
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that the attack was likely an isolated incident and not a prelude to a larger action and could possibly be linked to the North Korean succession as ruler Kim Jong-Il begins relinquishing his power to his son, Kim Jong Un.
Even so, President Obama dispatched the U.S.S. George Washington -- a 7,000-sailor aircraft carrier -- to the area . She set sail from Tokyo Bay Wednesday morning in what U.S. military officials said was a planned, defensive maneuver scheduled before the attacks. She will link up with South Korean naval forces in the Yellow Sea for war games meant to send a message to North Korea, Mullen said.
North Korean officials say the attacks were provoked by South Korean war games in the area and that they and their allies to the east -- namely the U.S. -- are driving the peninsula to the brink of war.
China, one of the North's last remaining allies in the region, asked for restraint between the two nations.
"China strongly urges that both sides retain calm and restrain, and engage in talks as quickly as possible in order to prevent similar incidents from happening again," a statement to the Associated Press said. "Relevant parties should contribute more to efforts that will ease tensions and benefit the peace and stability of the peninsula. We are ready to make joint efforts with them."