US Vice-President Mike Pence reiterated his country’s commitment to the security of Japan on Tuesday, as North Korea intensified concerns over its weapons programme with a vow to launch missile tests “every week”.
The North, which is intent on developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States, defied international pressure on Sunday with a test that failed immediately after launch.
As fears grow that it may also be preparing for its sixth nuclear weapons test, Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol said that its programme would only escalate.
“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” Han told the BBC in an interview, threatening “all-out war” if the US took any action against it.
Arriving in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence hailed the two countries’ longstanding security ties. “The alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of peace and security in Northeast Asia,” he told Abe.
The Japanese leader called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korea tensions but did not rule settlements of the issue,” he said. “It is a matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well as peaceable exercise pressure.” “At the same time dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to out the need for tough measures.
Pence arrived in Tokyo from South Korea, where he assured leaders of the “iron-clad” alliance with the United States. He also warned the reclusive North, which has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, that the “era of strategic patience” was over.
Pence put Japan on notice that Washington wants results “in the near future” from talks it hopes will open markets to US goods, adding that the dialogue could lead to negotiations on a two-way trade deal.
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arranged the economic dialogue between their deputies at a Washington summit in February, soon after Trump took office.
“Today we are beginning a process of economic dialogue, the end of which may result in bilateral trade negotiations in the future,” Pence told a news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, his counterpart at Tuesday’s talks.
“At some point in the future, there may be a decision made between our nations to take what we have learned in this dialogue and commence formal negotiations for a free trade agreement,” he said. “But I leave that for the future.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister said on Tuesday China has an obligation to use its “enormous leverage” to bring nuclear-armed North Korea back from the brink, toughening Canberra’s position on the escalating crisis.
Malcolm Turnbull’s remarks came after the North’s latest failed missile test and ahead of a visit to Australia by Pence.