Pence says US stands by ally Japan on North Korea problem

The U.S. will not relent until it achieves its objective of ensuring the Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday while visiting Japan.

U.S. business leaders called for the lowering of tariffs in Japan as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence began trade talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo.

"We appreciate the challenging time in which the people of Japan live with increasing provocation across the Sea of Japan", Pence said in Tokyo before a lunch with Abe.

"You read Clinton's book, and he said 'Oh, we made such a great peace deal.' And it was a joke", Trump said.

Why are we, on the far side of the Pacific, still responsible for containing North Korea when two of its neighbors - Russian Federation and China - are nuclear powers and South Korea and Japan could field nuclear and conventional forces far superior to Kim's?

Vice President Mike Pence said the USA would stand by Japan "100 percent" and keep pushing until North Korea curbs its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea will continue to test missiles regularly and any military action against it by the U.S. would prompt "all out war", a senior North Korean official has told the BBC. "While all our 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", he said.

North Korea attempted to launch a ballistic missile Sunday but failed, US and South Korean military officials said.

In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, photo distributed by the North Korean government, Polaris submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) are paraded to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated China's line that the crisis could only be resolved by diplomacy. Wang told reporters that although USA officials have made clear that a military strike remains a possibility, he believes that Washington would still prefer to de-escalate tensions through multi-sided talks.

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"But at the same time", the prime minister said, "dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure on North Korea so that it comes forward and engages in this serious dialogue".

White House officials said the economic meetings in Tokyo, with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and other officials, are meant to forge a framework for future discussions after the USA withdrew from a Pacific Rim trade pact.

Pressure on North Korea is crucial, the prime minister said. Mr Trump has scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact, a 12-nation trade deal aimed partly at countering China's economic clout.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his wife Peng Liyuan (2nd L) pose for a photo with U.S. President Donald Trump (C), his wife Melania Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump in the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida earlier this month.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters Monday evening, said he hoped there would 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". With no U.S. Trade Representative yet in office and other key negotiator positions still unfilled, such nitty-gritty discussions will have to come later.

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

The official said Tuesday that Japan still hopes to bring the US back into a multilateral framework such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The two confirmed during a working lunch that China's role was important in dealing with North Korea, and they needed to work on China to take on a bigger role, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

For now, both sides seem keen to downplay potential for conflict.

Pence developed ties with Japanese business and political leaders as governor of IN, a state that is home to Subaru (9778.T), Honda (7267.T) and Toyota (7203.T) plants, and about 260 Japanese companies IN total employing about 60,000 residents.

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