US VP Mike Pence reassures Japan of US resolve against North Korea

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence leaves the main shrine of Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo on Tuesday

Tensions around North Korea's activities with both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons have drastically escalated in recent months, after Pyongyang conducted a number of nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches in violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions.

USA officials said the Trump administration has settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement" after a two-month policy review.

Like South Korea, Japan already faces a direct threat from the secretive regime.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese leaders began talks Tuesday expected to focus largely on trade with America's anchor ally in the region, though tensions with North Korea loomed large.

Abe said Japan likewise hopes for peaceful dialogue with Pyongyang, "but at the same time, dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless". He has since praised China for trying to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

How did we get here?

China is seriously concerned about the latest developments in the nuclear and missile programmes of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said. That is changing with continued testing of ballistic missiles that could possibly carry a nuclear warhead.

His comments come amid differing reports about the trajectory of a U.S. strike group in the region.

Pence and Abe agreed that they needed to persuade China to play a larger role in dealing with North Korea, a Japanese government spokesman said.

But North Korea used Chinese-made trucks to display missiles at the military parade on Saturday, according to photographs, underlining the difficulty in enforcing United Nations sanctions.

What can the outside world do about N Korea?

Asked what North Korea must do, he repeated that "all options are on the table, and there they will remain".

Pence said on Monday the world had seen Trump's resolve in the past two weeks, with a US missile attack on a Syrian airfield and the dropping of a powerful non-nuclear bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks at the main shrine of Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo on Tuesday
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence looks at the main shrine of Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo on Tuesday

"I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. we'll see what happens", he said.

The Reuters report also cited a statement from Susan Thornton noting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and China's top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, agreed in a phone call on April 16 on the need for strict enforcement of United Nations resolutions.

North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations reiterated on the weekend that the North is ready to respond to any USA missile or nuclear strike.

China has called for a return to multi-sided talks that ended in a stalemate in 2009, during the rule of North Korea's previous leader, Kim Jong Il.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the US against taking unilateral military action in North Korea on Monday at a press conference in Moscow.

He told reporters that President Trump was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programme. He said North Korea's measures to bolster its nuclear forces are self-defensive "to cope with the US vicious nuclear threat and blackmail", and he said his country "is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S".

The North casts the U.S. as the aggressor.

He said the USA was "disturbing global peace and stability and insisting on the gangster-like logic that its invasion of a sovereign state is decisive and just and proportionate and contributes to defending the worldwide order". Pyongyang is also threatening to conduct a nuclear test when and where its leadership decides.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a new appeal Tuesday for calm on the Korean Peninsula.

On Sunday, Lt Gen HR McMaster, the USA top security adviser, said his country was working on a "range of options" with China, the first confirmation the two countries were co-operating to find a solution to the North Korean issue. Whereas the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hoped there won't be any unilateral actions like the one recently seen in Syria.

"Today we are beginning a process of economic dialogue, the end of which may result in bilateral trade negotiations in the future", Pence told a news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, his counterpart at Tuesday's talks.

He added that Japan needed to apply pressure on Pyongyang to "seriously respond to a dialogue" with the global community.

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