US VP Mike Pence Traveling to Asia-Pacific to Address 'Problems'

Vice President Mike Pence will discuss the United States response to a North Korean provocation on a visit to South Korea and Japan as part of a 10-day tour of Asia beginning this weekend. But public opinion in the South does not favour a U.S. strike that could provoke a North Korean counterattack against its neighbour.

Pence's trip comes after Trump dispatched the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to the waters around the Korean Peninsula. Administration officials said Thursday it's considering economic sanctions and military options if a provocation by North Korea occurs.

When Vice President Mike Pence embarks on an 11-day trip across the Asia-Pacific, his wife, Karen, will join him with a mission of her own.

Mr Pence will depart on Saturday (Sunday AEST) for a week-long Asia-Pacific tour, with the first stop South Korea followed by visits to Japan, Indonesia and Australia.

After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement", US officials said Friday.

President Trump has responded with a series of remarks condemning the actions, saying North Korea "is looking for trouble" in a recent tweet and telling reporters on Thursday: "North Korea is a problem". China, the North's biggest trading partner and the crutch that keeps its economy afloat, has so far shown little appetite for pulling the plug on North Korea. He'll arrive in Seoul on Easter Sunday, one day after the April 15 anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, North Korea's founder.

Meanwhile, South Korea is reassuring its citizens following conjecture of a possible pre-emptive American military strike on nuclear-armed North Korea.

"The most important message from the vice president on behalf of the president is that we have an ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the region, in their defense", Pence Press Secretary Marc Lotter said in an interview on ABC's "Powerhouse Politics" podcast ahead of the trip. 'He continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan.

"With the regime it's not a matter of if - it's when".

"I would imagine it would come up probably on their end, but we're prepared to address that as well", the official said, referring to THAAD.

But the need for "free and fair trade" will also be a theme, the adviser said. The discussions will focus more on setting a "framework" for future talks rather than on specific industry issues, a White House official said.

Trump administration officials say they have seen progress after urging China to help constrain North Korea's antagonism.

Pence plans to depart South Korea on Tuesday for Japan, where he will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and hold economic discussions with top Japanese officials.

Pence will meet with business leaders at each stop, including in Jakarta, though he was not expected to wade into the weedy details of disputes between the Indonesian government and USA companies like mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

  • Leroy Wright