Sunday, 25 June, 2017

US VP Pence arrives in Japan to focus on trade

Stacy Diaz | 19 April, 2017, 01:38

North Korea could react to a potential USA 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.

Pence took off for Tokyo from a U.S. air base south of Seoul, where he assured leaders of the "iron-clad" alliance with the United States.

While Japan's trade surplus with the U.S.is much smaller than China's, Trump has decried the imbalance, especially in auto exports. "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".

Abe said he supported Trump's stance that strategic patience with North Korea had run out, and that all options were on the table.

"Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan", the vice president said after delivering a statement to the media alongside Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korea's acting president.

Wang told reporters that although US 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.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said China had taken some "very helpful" steps, although it remained to be seen how effective these would be. South Korea hosts 28,500 US troops to counter the threat from the North.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters Monday evening, said he hopes "there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the USA will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign".

Part of the display were two new ICBM-sized canisters as well as North Korea's submarine-launched ballistic missile, and a land-based version of the same for the first time, according to analysts. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session Monday, said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace". Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that USA plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.

"We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the global community, he said, urging China and Russian Federation to play more constructive roles on the issue.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who met with Japan's trade minister, Hiroshige Seko, earlier Tuesday, said he hopes to soon begin talks on a free trade agreement with Japan.

Referring to the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group to waters off the Korean peninsula, Kim said if Washington "dares opt for a military action", calling it a preemptive strike, "the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S". Also on April 13, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the country may already have the capability to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve agent.

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

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

Pyongyang has yet to conduct its anticipated sixth nuclear test, amid indications it has made all preparations for such an event.