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US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has told the BBC that North Korea's recent defiant stance has posed a "dilemma" for diplomatic personnel, who have been trying to find effective measures against Pyongyang.
In the interview, Gates said: "As long as the regime doesn't care what the outside world thinks of it, as long as it doesn't care about the well-being of its people, there's not a lot you can do about it, to be quite frank, unless you're willing at some point to use military force. And nobody wants to do that."
He said: "There is no desire to trigger the collapse of the North or to see another war on the peninsula. So how do you gain purchase with a regime that doesn't seem to care what happens to it?"
Secretary Gates said the alleged sinking of the South Korean ship, Cheonan, by North Korea had raised the possibility of yet more "provocations."
He pledged full US support to Seoul for international action to hold Pyongyang to account for the alleged torpedo attack on the Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean sailors.