Pence: Amer­ica will re­tal­i­ate against Py­ongyang hos­til­ity

Tells Ja­pan that U.S., Trump be­hind them ‘100 per­cent’

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVE BOYER

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence said Wed­nes­day that the U.S. would meet any con­ven­tional or nu­clear at­tack by North Korea with an “over­whelm­ing” mil­i­tary re­sponse to pro­tect al­lies such as Ja­pan and South Korea.

Speak­ing to U.S. and Ja­panese sailors aboard the air­craft car­rier USS Ron­ald Rea­gan in Yoko­suka, Ja­pan, on Wed­nes­day morn­ing lo­cal time, Mr. Pence said North Korea presents “the most dangerous and ur­gent threat to the peace and se­cu­rity” in the re­gion.

“Those who would challenge our re­solve or our readi­ness should know, we will de­feat any at­tack and meet any use of con­ven­tional or nu­clear weapons with an over­whelm­ing and ef­fec­tive Amer­i­can re­sponse,” Mr. Pence said to ap­plause. “The United States of Amer­ica will al­ways seek peace. But un­der Pres­i­dent Trump, the shield stands guard, and the sword stands ready.”

Mr. Pence also de­liv­ered warn­ings to China, whose help the U.S. is seek­ing in pres­sur­ing North Korea to lower its nu­clear weapons am­bi­tions.

The vice pres­i­dent said the U.S. se­cu­rity al­liance with Ja­pan cov­ers the dis­puted Senkaku Is­lands, over which China also claims jurisdiction, and said the U.S. is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing the “free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight” in the South China Sea.

Ear­lier, Mr. Pence re­as­sured the Ja­panese peo­ple Tues­day that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is with them “100 per­cent” in con­fronting the nu­clear weapons threat from North Korea.

“Our com­mit­ment is un­wa­ver­ing, and our re­solve could not be stronger,” Mr. Pence said at a news con­fer­ence in Tokyo, where he is in the midst of a 10-day Asia tour. “The peo­ple of this coun­try should know that we stand with you in the de­fense of your se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity, now and al­ways.”

The vice pres­i­dent came from South Korea, where he de­nounced North Korea’s failed missile test last week­end as a “provo­ca­tion” amid a ris­ing war of words be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang.

De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis am­pli­fied the warn­ing against North Korea on an in­ter­view while on a visit to Saudi Ara­bia, say­ing that the most re­cent missile launch was yet an­other “reck­less act” by Py­ongyang to fur­ther ratchet up ten­sions in the Pa­cific.

Ja­pan, which is al­ready within range of the North’s bal­lis­tic mis­siles, has watched ner­vously from the side­lines as the cri­sis has heated up.

“It goes with­out say­ing that it is a mat­ter of para­mount im­por­tance for us to seek diplo­matic ef­forts as well as peace­able set­tle­ments of the is­sue,” Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe told Mr. Pence. “But at the same time, di­a­logue for the sake of di­a­logue is val­ue­less, and it is nec­es­sary for us to ex­er­cise pres­sure [on] North Korea” to bring the regime to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble.

Mr. Trump and Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son are urg­ing Chi­nese lead­ers to ex­ert more pres­sure on North Korea to scale back its nu­clear weapons pro­gram. The pres­i­dent said Tues­day that he’s eased off tough cam­paign talk about China’s trade prac­tices be­cause Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is chang­ing his stance on North Korea, and Mr. Trump didn’t want to jeop­ar­dize those ac­tions.

“What, am I go­ing to start trade war with China in the mid­dle of him work­ing on a big­ger prob­lem with North Korea?” Mr. Trump said on “Fox & Friends.” “I haven’t changed my stance. China is try­ing to help us.”

INorth Korea has warned of a nu­clear strike if the U.S. or its al­lies pro­voke it. Py­ongyang’s deputy rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions, Kim In Ry­ong, ac­cused the U.S. of cre­at­ing “a sit­u­a­tion where nu­clear war could break out at any time.”

The vice pres­i­dent’s lengthy trip is also fo­cused on trade is­sues. Be­fore he left Seoul, Mr. Pence told busi­ness lead­ers that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to re­view a bi­lat­eral trade agree­ment with South Korea first ne­go­ti­ated un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and con­cluded un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2012.

Mr. Pence also told Ja­panese lead­ers that the Obama-era Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a 12-na­tion pact that in­cluded Ja­pan, was “a thing of the past.” Mr. Trump with­drew from the agree­ment as one of his first ac­tions, con­tend­ing that it would hurt U.S. work­ers.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence told U.S. ser­vice­men and Ja­panese Self-De­fense Forces per­son­nel on the deck of the USS Ron­ald Rea­gan that North Korean ag­gres­sion would be met with an “over­whelm­ing” re­sponse from the United States.

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