Pence to North Korea: 'The sword stands ready'

Posted May 03, 2017

Pence was addressing U.S. military personnel and guests including Japanese sailors on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which is forward-deployed with the U.S. Seventh Fleet at the U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka, 40 miles south of Tokyo.

"U.S. policy is to continue to work diligently with Japan and other countries, including China, to bring economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime in North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) until the country abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs", Pence told an assembly of USA servicemen and Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel.

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.

"We're already seeing our allies in South Korea and Japan and the wider world standing behind us, but China is taking unprecedented steps to economically isolate North Korea, and given the fact that China represents more than 80 percent of the exports from North Korea this is enormously important", he said.

Through three American administrations, the US and its allies had worked tirelessly to peacefully dismantle the nuclear program and alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people.

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He again reiterated that with the Trump administration, "the era of strategic patience is over".

Some economists have criticized the Trump administration's focus on trade deficits as a way of viewing USA economic ties with the rest of the world.

The US played its own part in the tensions with surprise bombing action in Syria and Afghanistan, which Pence held up Wednesday as proof of US resolve.

"There's no question North Korea represents the most risky and most immediate threat in the Asia-Pacific and President Trump is determined to confront that threat by marshaling unprecedented cooperation with allies in the region and China and the world", Pence said.

The vice president said the USA would honor its alliance with Pacific Rim nations and protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the sea lanes vital to global shipping where China has been staking claim to disputed territory.

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"We're reviewing all of our trade agreements across the world to ensure that they benefit our economy as much as they benefit our trading partners", Pence told the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

But the revelation could be damaging to the U.S. position in Asia, experts say, as it feeds the idea that President Trump cannot always be taken at his word.

Pyongyang has yet to conduct its anticipated sixth nuclear test, amid indications it has made all preparations for such an event.

He said those troops "know what you who stand in the gap in this region already know - North Korea is the most unsafe and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific".

Pence also said the United States would protect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where Beijing is entangled in territorial rows with several Southeast Asia nations.

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Information for this article was contributed by Ken Thomas, Robert Burns and staff members of The Associated Press; and by Josh Rogin of The Washington Post.