US carrier heading toward Korean Peninsula

Posted April 20, 2017

Pence's visit to two US allies in East Asia, part of a four-nation tour set to include stops in Indonesia and Australia, comes amid rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

"North Korea is the most risky and urgent threat to the peace and security" of the region, Pence told USA and Japanese Navy personnel as he visited the USS Ronald Regan at a United States naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo.

Tensions between the two nations have been fraught throughout Trump's presidency of nearly three months.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is on board an American aircraft carrier stationed in Japan amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

"As (U.S.) President (Donald) Trump has made clear to the world, the era of strategic patience is over", the vice president said.

The U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement Wednesday that the USS Carl Vinson strike group is heading to the western Pacific "as a prudent measure".

The bilateral trade rhetoric is the central theme of Pence's visit to Asia, which aims to spread the message that Trump is open to boosting USA trade in Asia, despite abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). "But under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready".

The official said Tuesday that Japan still hopes to bring the USA back into a multilateral framework such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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. And the vice president believes American voters will be able to pinpoint accomplishments as it reflects on the administration's first 100 days.

Australia plans to work closely with Japan, South Korea and the USA, and with China, "to ensure that China can use its unique position".

"China is the source of energy, of ideas, of innovation, of expertise", she said, noting 95 of direct investment in North Korea come from China and that the North's exports mainly goes to China.

Japan, a staunch US ally that hosts about 50,000 American troops on its turf, has in recent years developed military cooperation with other countries, including Australia, France and Britain.

Pence reassured Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday that the US considers its alliance with Japan to be a cornerstone of security in the region. In that time span, North Korea has engaged in at least five missile tests, the most recent of which resulted in failure this past weekend.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits Indonesia on Thursday as part of his 10-day visit to Asia, and a range of topics will be on the docket.

"You're aware that the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile", he recently told reporters.

White House officials say the meetings in Tokyo are meant to forge a framework for future discussions after the US withdrew from a Pacific Rim trade pact.