Thursday, 23 November, 2017

Pence to open Asian trip amid tensions with North Korea

A currency trader passes by screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index, center left and foreign exchange rate center right at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul South Korea Friday April 14 Pence to open Asian trip amid tensions with North Korea
Erik Tate | 18 April, 2017, 03:05

Vice President Mike Pence, after arriving in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday called North Korea's failed missile launch a "provocation". He will also aim to reassure allies in South Korea and Japan that the US will take appropriate steps to defend them against North Korean aggression.

The DMZ is a heavily mined 4-kilometers-wide strip that separates the two Koreas. The high-profile failure came as the North tried to showcase its nuclear and missile capabilities around the birth anniversary of the North's late founder and as a US aircraft carrier neared the Korean Peninsula.

President Donald Trump has labeled North Korea a "problem" country and says it will be dealt with through a broad - and vague - set of options.

"All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country", he said.

"But the era of strategic patience is over", Pence said.

An attempted projectile launch by North Korea on Sunday failed, according to South Korea's military.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters Monday evening, said he hopes "there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the USA will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign".

While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the spectre of a potential escalated US response trailed Pence as he began a 10-day trip to Asia amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric. The New York Times reported last month that the USA military is working hard on missile defenses that would involve sabotage rather than traditional anti-missile interceptors.

Pyongyang's rogue atomic ambitions have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, with Trump vowing a tough stance against the North and threatening unilateral action if China failed to help curb its neighbour's nuclear programme. Still, it was a reminder that we were 30,000 feet in the air heading toward a Korean Peninsula that is even more tense than usual.

Pence's visit, full of Cold War symbolism, came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Japan's government is drawing up contingency plans in case a crisis on the Korean Peninsula sends an influx of refugees to Japan.

U.S. officials told CNN they did not believe the missile had intercontinental capabilities, and blew up nearly immediately after launch.

India asks for Kulbhushan Jadhav chargesheet, consular access from Pakistan
Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, put parts of the charge sheet in public domain on Friday. Over the past year , the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav has witnessed several twists and turns.

Pyongyang, already under a raft of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, says it is developing arms as deterrence against the USA, which has been deploying advanced weaponry to the South for quite some time now.

The North Korea problem is more acute even than that of Islamic State at the moment, a USA official said of the atmosphere in the Trump administration. He says the Trump administration hopes their clarity will be received in North Korea, adding the USA and its allies will achieve its objectives through "peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary" to protect South Korea and stabilize the region. Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that US plans to deploy a missile defense system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.

"We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the global community, he said, urging China and Russian Federation to play more constructive roles on the issue.

They could also reduce the effectiveness of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which Washington and Seoul are deploying to the South to counter missile threats, to the fury of Beijing.

US Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Asia this weekend, with planned stops in Seoul; Jakarta, Indonesia; Tokyo and Sydney. But at the same time, McMaster said on "This Week" on ABC, "it's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully".

So who is more realistic, the Trump administration, which says all options are on the table, or the USA experts and former officials who say the military option is not? "The North Koreans know they may fail, but they improve their capabilities each time".

Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter that China was working with the United States on "the North Korea problem".

The Trump administration is hoping that China will help rein in North Korea in exchange for other considerations. "We will see what happens!" He is in South Korea as part of a 10-day tour of Asia.

Tensions have been on the rise along the Korean Peninsula with the arrival of a US aircraft carrier to the area and the deployment of thousands of USA and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry for their biggest-ever joint military exercises.

Although this is one possible description of future events, North Korea's reaction is hard to predict. Pyongyang may misread the Trump administration's intentions and launch a pre-emptive attack on the South.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, including two a year ago.


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