US VP Pence assures Japan: America is with you '100 percent'

YOKOSUKA, Japan From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the USA military, promising it would make an "overwhelming and effective" response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.

The stark warning, delivered in Seoul after the vice president went to the military demarcation line that separates the two Koreas, could revive speculation that the White House is considering military action against the regime in Pyongyang.

From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that North Korea's latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the US was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

That direction was not evident from North Korean leadership, as state-run TV highlighted a propaganda video showing missile strikes leaving the USA in flames.

Spicer later cautioned reporters not to "make too much" of an analogy between Syria and North Korea.

No one we contacted could state flatly that North Korea was the victim of cyber-sabotage. Both countries have express outrage over missile tests and massive military exercises.

For its part, China made a plea for a return to negotiations.

"We have not seen that signal", she added.

Pence arrived in South Korea just hours after North Korea launched its latest ballistic missile - which exploded within a few seconds - and amid a weekend of fanfare in North Korea, during which the regime showed off what appeared to be new missiles created to reach the United States.

The Trump administration has signaled a forceful US stance on North Korea's recent actions, dispatching Pence to the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea on Monday in a show of American resolve.

Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the hulking USS Ronald Reagan that President Donald Trump's administration would continue to "work diligently" with allies like Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang.

China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States.

Earlier this month, on Trump's command, the US military launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians.

China has recently shown "tangible indications" that it is cooperating with the U.S.to turn up the pressure on Pyongyang, a senior State Department official said this week.

"[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US", Ms Bishop told the ABC. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute there to a peaceful resolution.

At the outset of their meeting, Pence reiterated to Abe his statement in South Korea that the United States has run out of patience with Pyongyang's moves.

The U.S. Navy's decision to reroute an aircraft carrier strike group destined for Australia to the "western Pacific" sparked speculation it was heading to the Korean Peninsula, adding to the jitters in the region. Beijing has retaliated against South Korean businesses, while its military has threatened to take unspecified action in response.

US 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.

The statement said North Korea's illegal ballistic missile activities are leading to a nuclear weapons delivery system and "greatly increasing tension in the region and beyond".

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