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US seeks Beijing's support for tougher sanctions against Kim

21 April 2017

Pence arrived in South Korea Monday as part of his 10-day, four-nation Asia tour that will also take him to Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney in what many view as war moves, accompanied by an aircraft carrier strike group that the United States has sent to the region. "Let me assure you that under President Trump's leadership, our resolve has never been stronger, our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger, and with your help and God's help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula".

He leveled sharp criticism at the US and South Korea for conducting the war games of unprecedented scope and scale and said they could entail dire consequences for peace in the region.

In February, 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 U.S. bases in the country.

Pence's comments come after a senior North Korean official warned the regime had no intention of dialling down its missile programme, pledging weekly tests and threatening "all-out war" if the U.S. took any action against it.

The statement was made amid an escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula with the South Korea and U.S. military reporting April 16 that they had witnessed what they believe to be a failed missile test by Pyongyang which followed a number of missile launches and nuclear tests considered to be in violation with the UN Security Council resolution. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will make opening remarks at the meeting, which will be chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

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Pence told reporters near the Demilitarized Zone that President Donald Trump was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its weapons program, a day after the North's failed missile test launch.

The travels and travails of China's veteran point man on North Korea underscore China's growing frustration in its efforts to broker a negotiated solution to rising tensions between North Korea and the United States.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, "We know the situation is tense.The more tense things are, the more calm we need to be to find the opportunities and possibilities for dialogue".

Mr Wang told reporters that although United States officials have made clear that a military strike remains on the table, he believes that Washington would still prefer to de-escalate tensions through multi-sided talks. "Start a trade war with China while in the middle of him working on a bigger problem, frankly, with North Korea?"

However, he also said, "While options all options are on the table, President Trump is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region and with China to achieve a peaceable resolution and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula".

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Pence's advisers said the vice-president would make the case to Abe and Aso that the USA rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, under Trump does not signal a US withdrawal from trade and economic development in the region.

Pence's advisers told reporters that he hopes to win better US access to Japanese markets and to attract more Japanese investment in the U.S.

The talks Tuesday did not delve into sector-by-sector issues such as auto exports.

"Whatever comes from the USA, we will cope with it".

But the meetings could indicate how forcefully the US will pressure Japan to further open its farm and automotive sectors.

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The loss of US participation in the TPP was a blow to Japan following strenuous negotiations, especially over opening access wider to its long-protected farm sector. Both leaders agreed that China must take on a larger role in dealing with North Korea, Japanese officials said.

US seeks Beijing's support for tougher sanctions against Kim