Pence avoids direct answer on North Korea sabotage

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The United States is not seeking to negotiate with North Korea and it is not in direct talks "at this time" with the rogue Asian nation, Vice President Mike Pence told CNN and the Washington Post Wednesday.

The Trump team has signaled it intends to chart a new path when it comes to dealing with North Korea, though analysts say there aren't too many new options to try.

"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 Tuesday.

After talks with Japan's deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, Pence said the USA would work with Japan, China and other nations to get Pyongyang to give up its atomic weapons program. North Korea's nuclear and missile development dominated the agenda on his first stop in South Korea.

"The United States of America will always seek peace, but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready", he added.

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The New York Times reported last month that President Donald Trump inherited a cyberwar on North Korea in the hope of sabotaging its missile tests. The trip so far has been dominated by USA and allies' concerns about North Korea's nuclear and missile development efforts.

Pence has used the first stops on his 10-day visit to Asia Pacific to stress the Trump administration's strong commitment to U.S. allies in the face of hostile rhetoric from Pyongyang. A missile launch in the country failed and exploded over the weekend, likely as a result of a concerted US cyber-hacking campaign.

"I really can't comment on the electronic and technical capabilities of our military, but we certainly would recognize that that was a failed missile test, it failed nearly immediately", he said.

Pence pointed to reports of China turning away coal exports from North Korea as an example of the new United States strategy bearing fruit.

Before Mr. Trump softens any trade deals with China, Townsend said the administration needs to see "definite signs" that China is working to mount pressure on the North.

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Pence told the ship's captain that he had spoken to President Donald Trump, and Trump "wishes he were here". Work on shrinking trade imbalances with China and Japan is running hand-in-hand with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, said a Republican insider close to Trump.

But the strike group was actually on its way to participate in military exercises in the Indian Ocean, some 3,500 miles in the opposite direction.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, center, speaks to U.S. servicemen and Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel on the flight deck of U.S. navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan at the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka base.

"Short of launching a shock and awe campaign which would be overwhelming in its breadth and scale there's not a lot else the U.S. and its allies can do other than tighten the constrictor grip on the North", said Alex Neill, a senior fellow at the Shangri-La Dialogue. A senior official at the White House blamed the error on miscommunication.

"The only thing we need to hear from North Korea is that they are ending and ultimately dismantling their nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program", Pence said.

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