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Pence visits Tokyo to reaffirm security ties as N. Korea tensions rise

19 April 2017

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool). Pence stood a few metres from the military demarcation line outside Freedom House, gazing at the North Korean soldiers across the border, and then peered at a deforested stretch of North Korea from a lookout post in the hillside.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the main shrine of Sensoji Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Earlier, Vice President Mike Pence warned it would be unwise to test the "resolve" of Mr Trump and said "all options are on the table" to deal with the threat posed by Pyongyang.

North Korea could react to a potential U.S. strike by targeting South Korea or Japan, and officials in Tokyo and Seoul have been ill at ease with the more bellicose language deployed by Trump's administration.

"Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?"

"We will not rest and will not relent until we obtain the objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula", he said.

The North conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests last year, defying six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions banning any testing, and it has launched more missiles this year including a failed attempt at the weekend.

At the United Nations on Monday, North Korea's permanent representative Ambassador Kim In-ryong, condemned the U.S. missile strikes in Syria, which targeted an air base after a suspected chemical attack by the government.

Asked about his next move after Pyongyang's failed missile launch on Sunday, the U.S. president said: "You'll see".

"North Korea would do well not to test his resolve, or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region", Mr Pence said at the press conference with South Korea's Acting President Hwang Kyo Ahn.

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Taking his comments a step further, as the Chicago Tribune reported, the North Korean official would say that "if the USA dares opt for a military action", North Korea "is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S".

Pyongyang didn't respond to requests from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Wu Dawei, the country's top envoy for North Korean nuclear affairs, to meet with their North Korean counterparts, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

The U.S. moved a Navy strike group toward the Korean Peninsula earlier this month, which elicited threats from Pyongyang of "tough counteraction" should the U.S. attack, as The Two-Way reported.

"I hope there's going to be peace, but they've been talking with this gentleman (Kim Jong-un) for a long time".

The BBC's Stephen Evans in Seoul says U.S. policy now seems to be to persuade China to contain North Korea while keeping the economic and military pressure on.

The vice foreign minister suggested that the US should prepare for an "all-out" war if the USA tries to intervene in the tests.

As talks began Tuesday, Aso said the U.S. -Japan alliance has underpinned peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and that trade friction with the U.S. has given way to an "age of cooperation". Pence was also expected to explain to Japanese leaders why the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) free trade deal, according to insiders. They agreed to hold a second round of talks before the end of the year.

Pence said after the meeting that Trump believes it is in America's interest to negotiate economic deals on a bilateral basis. "The TPP is a thing of the past for the United States of America".

Both sides said they do not expect the talks in Tokyo this week to delve into sector-by-sector talks on trade. The issue was not expected to be raised in talks on Tuesday. With no USA trade representative yet in office and other key negotiator positions still unfilled, such nitty-gritty discussions will have to come later.

The loss of USA participation in the TPP was a blow to Japan following strenuous negotiations, especially over opening access wider to its long-protected farm sector.

Pence visits Tokyo to reaffirm security ties as N. Korea tensions rise