Pence evades question on North Korea sabotage

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More than a week earlier, on April 8, the U.S. Navy announced that a strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson had been diverted north from Singapore to the Western Pacific as speculation mounted that North Korea was preparing a nuclear or missile test.

Vice President Pence, visiting Japan on his 10-day tour of Asia, said the US has launched bilateral talks with Tokyo in the hopes of reaching a new trade agreement.

He said the North Korean regime had for more than a generation sought to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to fire them, impoverishing its people and embittering the region in the process.

The vice president praised Indonesia for its moderate form of Islam and said the two countries would continue to cooperate on combating terrorism.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Pence also emphasized that the US would uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea - where China's actions in support of its disputed territorial claims have sparked tensions in recent years.

This new stance Pence described, if it becomes formal US government policy, not only breaks from decades of Washington orthodoxy and conventional wisdom; it also may place the United States in a different position than its key Asian allies.

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Pence arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday for a two-day visit, after wrapping up a three-day trip to South Korea, including a visit to the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea.

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.

In light of the failure of military and economic measures, diplomatic engagement looks like the only option left, but Pence has made the US's stance on this clear: "Not at this time".

Pence spoke of the U.S. commitment to article 5 of the U.S. -Japan Security Treaty, mentioning specifically U.S. defense of Japan's claim to the Senkaku Islands.

But the revelation could be damaging to the USA position in Asia, experts say, as it feeds the idea that President Trump cannot always be taken at his word.

"We're already seeing our allies in South Korea and Japan and the wider world standing behind us, but China is taking unprecedented steps to economically isolate North Korea, and given the fact that China represents more than 80 percent of the exports from North Korea this is enormously important", he said.

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In South Korea and Japan, Pence played down protectionist declarations of "America first" and reaffirmed USA treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

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Since becoming president nearly 100 days ago, Trump has hosted leaders from majority-Muslim Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, Mike Pence reaffirmed the USA commitment to defend its East Asian allies from North Korea.

"America has played a certain role in Asia since 1945. that role has in the end of the day been a stabilizer", Delury said.

"It's fitting today I deliver this message aboard this great ship, a majestic ship, the USS Ronald Reagan here at Yokosuka Naval Base", Pence said.

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