Pence tells Japan: 'We are with you 100 percent'

In the wake of US Vice-President Mike Pence's visit to South Korea to declare the era of strategic patience was over, China's Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial that China will cooperate with the US by imposing stricter economic sanctions on Pyongyang that will devastate the North Korean economy, but it won't support a military strike.

On Monday U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice, warning that recent U.S. strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed that the Trump administration's resolve should not be tested.

Mr Pence's comments, delivered in Japan, came a day after he spoke in South Korea where he said the "the era of strategic patience is over", a comment that was widely seen as hinting at USA military action.

Noting Trump's recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Pence said, "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve", or the US armed forces in the region.

The DPRK has conducted multiple missile tests and two nuclear tests in the past 18 months, with the United States' recent deployment of an aircraft carrier unit to the region after holding large-scale "war games" near the peninsula also stoking concerns. What's behind the North's latest nuclear bluster?

The United States was the most important participant, he said. "Everybody has been outplayed, they've all been outplayed by this gentleman, and we'll see what happens".

In South Korea on the first leg of an Asian tour, Pence on Monday visited the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone separating the two Koreas and warned Pyongyang against further provocations, saying "all options are on the table".

"I don't want to telegraph what I am doing or what I am thinking", he said.

United States officials say new 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.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a new appeal Tuesday for calm on the Korean Peninsula.

Pence's economic discussions in Tokyo will be closely watched to see how hard a line Washington is prepared to take on trade. After U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific trade pact, the U.S. has been keen to establish bilateral deals with Japan.

A sales manager for a Sinotruck dealer, Zhongnanhai, said the company exports about 1,000 trucks to North Korea every year under contracts that specify the vehicles are designed and manufactured for civilian use.

Analysts worry that a US strike against North Korea would result in a war with the country. 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.

Wang told reporters that although USA officials have made clear that a military strike remains on the table, he believes that Washington would still prefer to de-escalate tensions through multi-sided talks.

  • Joanne Flowers