US VP Pence warns North Korea: 'The sword stands ready'
It is his first trip to Asia as vice president.
Speaking to USA and Japanese troops on board the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier Wednesday, he called North Korea the most urgent and unsafe threat to the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific region.
Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday hailed Japanese companies for contributing to USA economic prosperity, moving to ease fears over the protectionist agenda of President Donald Trump. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko, the minister of economy, trade and industry, will meet for the next round of economic talks in June.
Pence said, "We seek peace always ... but as you know and the United States knows peace comes through strength".
White House officials say the meetings in Tokyo are meant to forge a framework for future discussions after the USA withdrew from a Pacific Rim trade pact.
Pence will also seek to assure Japanese businesses that Trump's "America First" rhetoric will not affect trade and business relations with the US.
US Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on the US commitment to Asia Pacific with a stern warning for North Korea, which he called the "most risky and urgent threat" to the region.
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Defence officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan, who were in Tokyo for trilateral security talks, said in a statement North Korea should give up its weapons development irrevocably.
Backed by the world's mightiest economy and military, the Trump administration's "America First" policy of pursuing US interests through bilateral negotiations appears unshaken.
Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the hulking carrier Ronald Reagan that President Trump's administration would continue to "work diligently" with allies like Japan and China to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.
Pence arrived in Japan after visiting South Korea and leaves for Indonesia later on Wednesday. "We want to send an unambiguous message especially to north Korea that any attempt to use weapons of any kind against our allies in this region or American forces overseas will be defeated and will be met with overwhelming force", Pence said.
North Korea's latest nuclear missile test fizzled over the weekend, but it conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests in 2016, and experts predict it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland within a few years.
The vice president will wrap up his four-nation tour in Sydney, Australia, on April 22.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned North Korea's "reckless nuclear actions" in comments on April 17, but said he hoped the United States would not take "very risky" unilateral military action against Pyongyang. But asked Wednesday if he envisioned direct negotiation between North Korea and the US, Pence replied, "not at this time".
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