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Mike Pence reassures Japan of U.S. resolve on North Korea

21 April 2017

Pence arrived in Tokyo from South Korea, where he assured leaders of an "iron-clad" alliance with the United States in the face of the reclusive North, which has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.

Malaysia revoked visa-free entry for North Koreans after the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13.

"North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region", Pence said.

In early March, the North simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which fell provocatively close to Japan, in what it said was a drill for an attack on USA bases in the country.

"We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable".

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However, Trump has also shown the willingness to link trade to other issues, saying he would cut a better trade deal with China if it exerts influence on North Korea.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a new appeal Tuesday for calm on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso shake hands as they end the joint press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

The vice president earlier visited a military installation near the DMZ, Camp Bonifas, for a briefing with military leaders.

"We have to be honest about where our trade relationship is falling short", Pence told an American Chamber of Commerce meeting in Seoul, highlighting a growing trade deficit between Asia and the United States since the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

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"As the President says, it's time for them to behave, to listen to the world community and to set aside their nuclear ambitions, their ballistic missile ambitions, and be willing to join the family of nations", Mr Pence told CNN.

"It will instead seek a bilateral deal with Japan which it hopes will give USA companies better access to its market". "President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change".

Both sides said they do not expect the talks in Tokyo this week to delve into sector-by-sector talks on trade.

The talks on Tuesday did not delve into sector-by-sector issues such as auto exports. With no US trade representative yet in office and other key negotiator positions still unfilled, such nitty-gritty discussions will have to come later.

The loss of United States participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a blow to Japan following strenuous negotiations, especially over opening its long-protected farm sector to more imports, especially of dairy and meat products.

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