Published: Wed, April 19, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Pence, headed to Japan, turns focus to trade with key ally

"We seek peace always as a country, as does Japan, but as you know and the United States knows, peace comes through strength and we will stand strongly with Japan and strongly with our allies for a peace and security in this region", Pence added.

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool).

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits at the border village of Panmunjom which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, South Korea, Monday, April 17, 2017.

Since entering office, President Donald Trump, like his predecessor, Barack Obama, has pressed China to use its political and economic leverage over North Korea, its once-close ally.

North Korea has repeatedly ignored China's calls for denuclearization and other steps to calm tensions on the peninsula, and relations between the two are believed to have sunk to their lowest level in years. The stance is sparking concerns among former officials in successive Democratic and Republican administrations who say Trump appears to be abandoning a pillar of U.S. efforts to urge China's cooperation on North Korea.

"All options are on the table" in pushing for an end to Pyongyang's nuclear programme, Pence said, adding that the era of United States "strategic patience" in dealing with the regime was over.

Now we have Trump facing off against another very unpredictable leader with weird hair, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Pence struck a stern tone as he began talks with Abe and other Japanese leaders after arriving at a USA naval base from South Korea.

"We appreciate the challenging times in which the people of Japan live with increasing provocations from across the Sea of Japan", he said. "We are with you 100 percent".

He denounced the United States for introducing into the Korean Peninsula - what he called "the world's biggest hotspot" - its "huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the Peninsula and pushing the situation there to a brink of war". On Monday, Pence referenced the 59 Tomahawk missiles that hit a Syrian air base this month and the dropping last week of the "mother of all bombs" against the Islamic State in Afghanistan and warned: "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve".

"Beijing has reasons and means to discipline Kim, but is more concerned with ensuring the survival of his regime, thus maintaining a buffer against USA military presence in the South".

Abe said Japan likewise hopes for peaceful dialogue with Pyongyang, "but at the same time, dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless".

Klingner said he has concerns about the new US posture on North Korea.

In Japan, they said Pence's two main goals are to spur increased US access to Japanese markets and strengthen Japanese foreign investment.

US officials described the missile fired Saturday as a KN-17, a new mobile-launched, single-stage missile that uses liquid fuel.

But US officials say expectations of an ambitious bilateral trade deal may be premature. "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 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.

As Indiana governor, Pence saw firsthand the impact of Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Subaru, whose factories employ thousands of people in his home state.

They are expected to be joined by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in Tokyo for his own talks with Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko.

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