Pence to North Korea: 'The sword stands ready'

Vice President Mike Pence doubled down on the United States commitment to Asia Pacific with a stern warning for North Korea, which he called the "most risky and urgent threat" to the region. Two days after his return to Beijing, North Korea launched the rocket, widely viewed as a ballistic missile test in disguise, further ratcheting up tensions on the Korean peninsula.

He previously visited South Korea, where he emphasized the Trump administration's "resolve" on the North Korean nuclear threat, a theme he revisited in Japan as well.

"[Japan] is probably telling Pence, hey listen, we're behind you - security alliance and all that".

The vice president met Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and reassured them of the United States commitment in the face of possible threats posed by North Korea.

A day after North Korea launched its latest test missile, an experiment that ultimately fizzled out, Mr Pence said the USA was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to persuade the North to give up its nuclear arms. Many have speculated that North Korea is gearing up to conduct a sixth nuclear test; it remains unclear exactly how the Trump administration would respond.

"We should stay on our toes to protect our territory and people's lives", Hwang said.

And their friendship with the state appears to be ending, with thousands of Chinese troops recently filmed heading to North Korea's border.

Abe and Pence affirmed that their countries will continue to share information as allies, but there was no specific mention of the United States consulting Japan before taking serious action on North Korea, the official said.

"Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response".

The Trump team has signaled it intends to chart a new path when it comes to dealing with North Korea, though analysts say there aren't too many new options to try.

Pence's 10-day tour of Asia aims at emphasizing that U.S. President Donald Trump wants to boost U.S. trade in the region, despite scrapping the TPP.

U.S. officials say tougher sanctions could include an oil embargo, a global ban on North Korea's airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday told a parliamentary session that diplomatic efforts were "important to maintain peace", but "dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless".

Asked whether another North Korean nuclear test is imminent, she said, "Some kind of a major provocation like that would draw a pretty significant worldwide response".

The economic dialogue seemed to have started smoothly, but Japanese government officials are cautious that the US would likely press hard for Tokyo to remove trade barriers.

Pence's economic discussions in Tokyo will be closely watched to see how hard a line Washington is prepared to take on trade. Trump campaigned on an "America first" platform, and has vowed to narrow big trade deficits with nations such as China and Japan.

During the interview - which aired the morning after Trump live-tweeted the show - host Ainsley Earhardt raised the topic of North Korea. Since the North Korean ships were turned away, analysts have noted China is not using almost as much coal as it did for a few years.

On Monday, Pence travelled to the tense Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea.

Abe hailed Pence's visit as "extremely timely given the severe state of the situation surrounding North Korea".

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