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Mike Pence Reassures Japan That US Will Stand Firm on North Korea

21 April 2017

In particular, between Trump's early calls for strategic partners such Japan and South Korea to cover more of the costs of supporting USA troops on their shores, his decision to withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his administration's recent statements and actions in response to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Trump has helped put the typically slow-moving and carefully managed geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific in flux.

Pence arrived in Tokyo from South Korea, where he assured leaders of the "iron-clad" alliance with the United States.

In turn, Pence told Abe the United States understands the severe security situation facing Japan and is behind its ally "100 percent".

The U.S. vice president also echoed the sentiments of his boss, President Donald Trump, in his remarks on jobs and trade.

"We support the USA putting pressure on Chinese banks to ensure that the elites in North Korea can not continue to live the comfortable lives that they now do while the people of North Korea are suffering".

At the outset of his meeting with Abe, Pence said that "While all options are on the table", Trump was determined to work with Japan, South Korea and other allies in the region to resolve the problem.

The official said Pence, whose president recently held a summit and telephone talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, told Abe the United States believes China fully understands the issue and will take action that will lead to further pressure on North Korea.

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The United States, Japan and South Korea, as well as Russian Federation and China, took part in talks with Pyongyang between 2003 and 2009 on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, but North Korea withdrew from the talks.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated China's line that the crisis could only be resolved by diplomacy.

"I will continue having constructive talks with Mr Pence so as to deepen the win-win economic relations between Japan and the USA", he said.

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

The new forum for trade talks was launched by Trump and Abe during the Japanese leader's visit to the U.S.in February.

While Japan's trade surplus with the U.S.is much smaller than China's, Trump has decried the imbalance, especially in auto exports.

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Pence, however, reaffirmed that there was no hope of reviving the TPP itself, which he called a "thing of the past" for the US. "Most concerning is the fact that the US trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since the KORUS FTA came into effect".

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

The two confirmed during a working lunch that China's role was important in dealing with North Korea, and they needed to work on China to take on a bigger role, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters.

For now, both sides seem eager to downplay potential for conflict.

As Indiana governor, Pence saw firsthand the impact of Japanese automakers Toyota, Honda and Subaru, whose factories employ thousands of people in his home state.

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.

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