North Korean leader's desire for peace a deciding factor, says Donald Trump

Owen Stevens
April 21, 2017

US Vice President Mike Pence (L) talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Trump administration has signalled a more forceful U.S. stance toward North Korea's recent missile tests and threats, including a warning from Trump that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has "gotta behave".

Tensions on the peninsula have ratcheted up in recent weeks amid saber-rattling from the U.S. and North Korea and analysts' warnings that North Korea is preparing for a sixth nuclear test. Trump administration officials in recent days have said the Obama administration's strategy of "strategic patience" is over.

Since entering office, President Donald Trump, like his predecessor, Barack Obama, has pressed China to use its political and economic leverage over North Korea, its once-close ally.

"We appreciate the challenging time in which the people of Japan live with increasing provocation across the Sea of Japan", Pence said in Tokyo before a lunch with Abe.

He leveled sharp criticism at the US and South Korea for conducting the war games of unprecedented scope and scale and said they could entail dire consequences for peace in the region.

On Monday, Mr Pence travelled to the tense Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea, where he warned North Korea's leaders that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, "the era of strategic patience is over".

Vice foreign minister Han told the Associated Press last week that North Korea was prepared to handle a war with the U.S.

Pence told reporters that the North Korean people and military "should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies", calling the alliance "iron-clad".

He said rolling back the hostile USA policy towards the DPRK "is the precondition to solving all the problems in the Korean Peninsula".

"North Korea is a problem".

The North regularly launches short-range missiles, but is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target US troops in Asia and, eventually, the USA mainland.

Pence said on Monday the world had seen Trump's resolve in the past two weeks, with a U.S. missile attack on a Syrian airfield and the dropping of a powerful non-nuclear bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. The spokesman Lu Kang distanced the China government from the decision of suspending North Korea flights and said it was purely "market-based".

The Trump administration wants to find more of that kind of foreign direct investment, and hopes to attract some with the $1 trillion plan to rebuild US roads, bridges and other types of infrastructure.

In a softening of USA rhetoric, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters the U.S. wasn't seeking regime change or conflict in North Korea. "If they are unable to do so, the USA, with its allies, will!"

"It is our belief by bringing together the family of nations with diplomatic and economic pressure we have a chance of achieving a freeze on the Korean Peninsula", Pence said.

If the United States and the two Koreas "let war break out, they must shoulder that historic culpability and pay the corresponding price", said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

He called it "another abuse of authority" by the United States, which holds the Security Council presidency this month, and a violation of the DPRK's sovereignty.

Pence's economic discussions in Tokyo will be closely watched to see how hard a line Washington is prepared to take on trade.

During the 2016 election, Trump frequently complained that Chinese leaders were outmaneuvering the U.S. to increase exports and pledged to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office, a move he subsequently did not take.

A day after North Korea launched its latest test missile, an experiment that ultimately fizzled out, Mr Pence said the U.S. was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to persuade the North to give up its nuclear arms. Many coal ships have been sent back, fuel has been sent back.

Zhongnanhai sells the trucks to a dealer in the border city of Dandong before they are resold to North Korea, he said.

Both the US VP and South Korean acting President reaffirmed their plans for the deployment in South Korea of a US anti-missile system, THAAD.

Other reports by VgToday

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