US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that Washington would work with its allies and China to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to end its development of nuclear weapons.
Pence arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday from South Korea and reassured Japan of US commitment to reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions in a series of meetings with Japan’s leaders, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Pence said he had spoken with US President Donald Trump and by 2020 some 60 percent of the US naval fleet would be in the region and Japan’s role will grow.
“The United States will strengthen its presence in the Asia Pacific,” he said. “Japan will assume a larger role and responsibility in our alliance in the years ahead.”
Speaking aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft-carrier at its home port of Yokosuka, Japan, Pence said the US remained unwavering in the face of the threat posed by the North, which has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions.
“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and beat any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” Pence said to loud applause.
Pence made his remarks as the White House grappled with controversy over the location of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group. Trump said last week it had been sent to waters near the Korean peninsula as a warning to North Korea, but which headed towards Australia instead.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States.
Pence also said the United States would protect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where Beijing is entangled in territorial rows with several Southeast Asia nations.
Pence arrived in Japan after visiting South Korea and leaves for Indonesia later on Wednesday.