U.S. defense secretary eyes international response to Russia on Ukraine

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrives to attend the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting a​t the Ministry of National Defense and meet South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook in Seoul, South Korea, December 2, 2021. Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool via REUTERS

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SEOUL, Dec 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday suggested any U.S. response to Russia's actions towards Ukraine would be carried out in conjunction with the international community, as he called on Moscow to be transparent about its military buildup.

Austin, during a visit to South Korea, also voiced hope that the United States and Russia could work to "resolve issues and concerns and lower the temperature in the region."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned Moscow to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border, saying a Russian invasion would provoke sanctions that would hit Moscow harder than any imposed until now.

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Asked whether fallout on Russia would be strictly economic, Austin declined to answer directly, saying only that the "best methods" would be used.

"Whatever we do will be done as a part of an international community. The best case though is that we won't see an incursion by the Soviet Union into the Ukraine," Austin said, accidentally calling Russia the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that aspires to join the European Union and NATO, has become the main flashpoint between Russia and the West as relations have soured to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended.

Ukraine says Russia has deployed more than 90,000 troops near their long shared border.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions it is preparing for an attack on Ukraine but has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

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Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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