The United States says it is considering new options beyond the United Nations to punish North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a security conference in Singapore that North Korea must face consequences for the sinking, which killed 46 sailors and escalated tensions on the peninsula.
Gates told the conference that Asian states had a "collective responsibility" to address the tragedy. He said his country was weighing new options beyond the United Nations to punish North Korea.
"We will conduct combined military exercise with South Korea and support action in the United Nations Security Council," Gates said. "At the same time, we are assessing additional options to hold North Korea accountable. The nations of this region share the task of addressing these dangerous provocations. Inaction would amount to an abdication of our collective responsibility to protect the peace and reinforce stability in Asia."
South Korea accuses the communist North of torpedoing its warship, the Cheonan, and took the case the U.N. Security Council on June 4.
The sinking was the deadliest single incident on the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pyongyang denies responsibility and accuses South Korean President Lee Myung-bak of staging the incident to improve his chances in local elections this week.
It has warned several times that war could break out "at any moment."
Gates' statement at the Singapore meeting increased pressure on China to rebuke long-time ally North Korea.
China, which can veto any proposed UN resolution as a permanent member of the Security Council, has so far refused to join international condemnation of North Korea over the "Cheonan"'s sinking.
Gates also called on China to restore military ties with the United States, which it suspended earlier this year after the U.S. announced it would sell billions of dollars' worth of weapons to Taiwan.
Gates said China's decision to interrupt military ties undermined regional stability and urged Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade territory, to accept the reality that Washington is committed to arming the island.
compiled from agency reports