US VP Pence kicks off Japan talks, seeking to boost trade

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence affirmed Tuesday in Tokyo that they will urge China to play a greater role in preventing further provocation by North Korea.

While wrapping up the first leg of his tour in South Korea, Pence said that the USA was rethinking most of its trade deals in order to fall more in line with Trump's "America First" campaign promises.

Viewing his adversaries in the distance, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the tense zone dividing North and South Korea and warned Pyongyang that after years of testing the U.S. and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, "the era of strategic patience is over".

"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.

"The world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan", the US Vice President said.

Asked by a reporter what message he had for North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un on Monday, Trump replied "Gotta behave".

The official said Tuesday that Japan still hopes to bring the US back into a multilateral framework such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But, mindful that this would likely trigger massive retaliation and casualties in South Korea and Japan, U.S. officials say the Trump administration's main focus is on tougher economic sanctions.

Mr Kim called the news conference to "categorically reject" the U.S. decision to hold an open meeting of the Security Council on April 28 on North Korea's nuclear programme, which is scheduled to be chaired by USA secretary of state Rex Tillerson. It's a role Pence played in Europe in February: letting allies and partners know that the basic tenets of US foreign policy remain intact, even inside the White House.

Japan is the second stop on a four-country trip that is taking Pence to South Korea, Indonesia and Australia.

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.

Pence landed in Tokyo from South Korea after a trip that included a visit to the heavily fortified border separating the North and South.

"I've seen that the United States has reiterated it is willing to use political and diplomatic means to resolve this, as this is their first choice", he told reporters in Beijing.

After talks with Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, Pence said the US would work with Japan, China and other nations to get Pyongyang to give up its atomic weapons program.

But the meetings could indicate how forcefully the USA will pressure Japan to further open its farm and automotive sectors.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who met with Japan's trade minister, Hiroshige Seko earlier Tuesday, said he hopes to soon begin talks on a free trade agreement with Japan.

The recent surge in tensions on the Korean Peninsula finds Beijing on the outs with both North and South Korea, while many critics have yet to be convinced by its insistence that its influence with Pyongyang has been exaggerated.

Pence visited the South Korean capital Seoul on Monday as part of a tour of Asia, where he warned the North not to test the resolve of the US President on military matters. North Korea's nuclear and missile development dominated the agenda on his first stop in South Korea.

White House officials said the economic meetings in Tokyo, with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and other officials, will help forge a framework for a new U.S. -Japan economic dialogue launched by President Donald Trump and Abe during the Japanese leader's visit to the U.S.in February.

  • Zachary Reyes