US VP Pence arrives in Japan to focus on trade

Posted April 19, 2017

In one symbolic demonstration of the Trump administration's tough new approach, Pence made a decision to go outside his security arrangements to personally review the line between North and South Korea at the DMZ.

Pence reassured Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday that the USA considers its alliance with Japan to be a cornerstone of security in the region.

The Trump administration is hoping that China will help rein in North Korea in exchange for other considerations.

At Saturday's parade to mark the 105th birth anniversary of founder president Kim Il Sung, North Korea displayed six Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) for the first time, towed behind trucks painted in North Korean navy camouflage.

"All options are on the table" in pushing for an end to Pyongyang's nuclear programme, Pence said, adding that the era of United States "strategic patience" in dealing with the regime was over. Speaking to reporters, Pence said: "It is our belief by bringing together the family of nations with diplomatic and economic pressure we have a chance of achieving a freeze on the Korean Peninsula".

Pence arrived in South Korea hours after North Korea conducted its latest test of a ballistic missile, which exploded within a few seconds, and amid a weekend of fanfare in North Korea, during which the regime showed off what appeared to be new missiles created to reach the United States.

Acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Seoul on Monday.

The plan was for the vice president to stay inside the glass enclosed Freedom House at the DMZ and not step outside towards the military demarcation line (MDL), where North Korean soldiers are standing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, is pushing to expand the military's role and legislation was passed in 2015 that could see troops engage in overseas combat for the first time since the end of World War II. "But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless".

As tensions mount Mr Trump has sent an "armada" of warships to the Korean Peninsula. There had been expectations the North would also carry out its sixth nuclear test, but no test occurred.

Vice President Pence looks toward North Korea from the Demilitarized Zone, near the village of Panmunjom, South Korea, on Monday.

To protect South Korea from North Korean missiles, the conservative government of former president Park Geun-hye agreed in July to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Zhongnanhai sells the trucks to a dealer in the border city of Dandong before they are resold to North Korea, he said.

None of that solves the deep and serious challenges that the United States and its allies face in the region, with the North Korean nuclear threat at the top of that list.

Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter, said the missile was a Scud variant that the US calls a KN-17.

While Japan's trade surplus with the U.S.is much smaller than China's, Trump has decried the imbalance, especially in auto exports.

Denmark was senior Pentagon policy official for Asia under Obama.

In the past, Mr Trump has taken to Twitter to say North Korea was "behaving very badly" and "playing" with the US.

"The North Korean regime is a criminal enterprise".

Critics have accused Ahn of lacking principles on national security, saying he reversed his position to accept the deployment of a USA missile defense system in South Korea.

The North's Foreign Ministry said the missile launches were part of a normal process of building up the country's defences and economy.

Terry said she sees the Trump administration's approach as "an intensification of Obama's sanctions approach", adding it is yet unclear what is replacing strategic patience.

"The U.S.is disturbing the 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 in its bid to apply it to the Korean Peninsula as well". Mike Pence is hoping to reassure Tokyo, a key ally, amid rising tensions over North Korea.

The White House foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence told reporters that the type of missile that North Korea tried to fire on Sunday was medium-range, and that it exploded about 4 to 5 seconds after it was launched.

The White House is also hoping the discussions will open the doors for United States goods and attract infrastructure investment.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, including two previous year.