Pence: America will retaliate against Pyongyang hostility
Tells Japan that U.S., Trump behind them ‘100 percent’
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.
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.