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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has vowed to respond "resolutely" to the sinking of a warship last month near the sea border with the North.
Pyongyang has denied any role in the sinking of the vessel, which left 46 sailors dead.
In an emotional speech, the president wiped away tears as he recited the names of the dead and missing men.
He did not mention North Korea but said the South's military would become stronger to prevent similar incidents.
"I, as president, will find out the cause of the Cheonan's sinking in full and in detail," Mr Lee said in a speech broadcast nationally.
"I will deal with the results in an unwavering and resolute way, and make sure that such an incident will never recur."