Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

US VP Pence assures Japan America is with ally '100 percent'

"All options are on the table" in pushing for an end to Pyongyang's nuclear programme, Pence said, adding that the era of U.S. "strategic patience" in dealing with the regime was over. It banned all coal imports from North Korea from February 26 as it grows increasingly impatient with North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, including a failed missile test-launch on Sunday morning.

Vice President Pence said on a visit to South Korea on Monday that the USA "era of strategic patience is over" regarding North Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile program. Echoing Trump's many statements on that front, the Vice President reiterated that Washington will resolve the North Korea issue with or without Beijing.

Wit, who has recently met with North Korean officials, adds: "I think we should not underestimate North Korea's resolve to resist pressure from the United States".

Pence, on a 10-day Asia trip that will also take him to Indonesia and Australia, said Trump hopes China will use its leverage to get its longtime ally North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

But, mindful that this would likely trigger massive retaliation and casualties in South Korea and Japan, U.S. officials say the Trump administration's main focus is on tougher economic sanctions. But Pence expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the regime to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated China's line that the crisis could only be resolved by diplomacy.

Pence made the remarks on Monday (17 April) during a visit to a United States military base near the demilitarised zone that divides rivals North and South Korea.

Abe said Japan likewise hopes for peaceful dialogue with Pyongyang, "but at the same time, dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless".

"We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the global community, he said, urging China and Russian Federation to play more constructive roles on the issue. He is the highest-ranking US official to have visited South Korea since the Donald Trump administration took office in January.

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.

The Trump administration wants to attract more foreign direct investment, hoping to lure some with a $1 trillion plan to rebuild US roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Pence's trip to Seoul also drew attention as the USA has reportedly completed its review of North Korea policy under which it chose to focus more on maximum pressure and engagement. The White House adviser said Tuesday's talks would not prescribe a free-trade deal but talks might eventually lead to such negotiations. With no U.S. Trade Representative yet in office and other key negotiator positions still unfilled, such nitty-gritty discussions will have to come later.

Japan had a $69 billion trade surplus with the United States a year ago, the U.S. Treasury Department said, expressing concern over what it called the "persistence" of the imbalance.

The loss of US participation in the TPP was a blow to Japan following strenuous negotiations, especially over opening access wider to its long-protected farm sector.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters over the weekend that Japan might push ahead with a revised, 11-nation version of the TPP despite the USA rejection of the trade accord.

For now, both sides seem keen to downplay potential for conflict.

Aso told reporters before the talks began he would discuss a broad framework on two-way economic cooperation with Pence without going into any details in their first round.

As Indiana governor, Pence saw firsthand the impact of Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Subaru, whose factories employ thousands of people in his home state.

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