Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Pence reassures Japan as N Korea steps up threats

AFP and AP, TOKYO and BEIJING

US Vice President Mike Pence, right, and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso shake hands before their meeting at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: EPA

US Vice President Mike Pence yesterday reiterated Washington’s commitment to the security of Japan, as North Korea intensified concerns over its weapons program with a vow to launch missile tests “every week.”

The North, which is intent on developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the continental US, on Sunday defied international pressure with a test that failed immediately after launch.

As fears grow that it might also be preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test, North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Han Song-ryol said that its program would only escalate.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” Han told the BBC in an interview, threatening “all-out war” if the US took any action against it.

Arriving in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence hailed the two nations’ longstanding security ties.

“The alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of peace and security in Northeast Asia,” he told Abe.

The Japanese leader called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korea tensions, but did not rule out the need for tough measures.

“It is a matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well as peaceable settlements of the issue,” Abe said. “At the same time dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure.”

Pence pointed to Trump’s recent strikes on a Syrian airbase and an Islamic State complex in Afghanistan as a warning to Pyongyang not to underestimate the administration’s resolve.

However, at a press conference with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Pence also played up the importance of coordination.

The US “believes the most productive pathway forward is dialogue among the family of nations that can isolate and pressure North Korea into abandoning permanently and dismantling” its nuclear and missile programs, he said.

In Beijing, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) made a fresh appeal for calm.

Wang told reporters that although US officials have made clear that a military strike remains a possibility, he believed that Washington would still prefer to de-escalate tensions through multisided talks.

“We know the situation is tense,” Wang said. “The more tense things are, the more calm we need to be to find the opportunities and possibilities for dialogue.”

China has recently shown “tangible indications” that it is cooperating with the US to turn up the pressure on Pyongyang, a senior US Department of State official said on Monday.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday also urged China to do more, saying Beijing has the “greatest obligation and responsibility” to de-escalate the threat from North Korea.

“The Chinese often express frustration with North Korea, and disappointment, but the fact is that they have the overwhelming leverage over the North Korea regime,” Turnbull said in Canberra. “Beijing has to step up and bring this reckless threat to the peace and stability of our region to an end.”

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