Pence reassures Japan as North Korea threatens 'weekly' tests
20 April, 2017, 13:51 | Author: Eloise Marshall
The United States will counter any North Korean attack with an "overwhelming and effective" response, Vice President Mike Pence vowed Wednesday, as he stood on the deck of a massive American aircraft carrier docked in Japan.
On March 14, the U.S., along with allies South Korea and Japan, responded to the North's earlier missile tests, dispatching high-tech missile defense ships to the same area where Pyongyang had previously fired the four missiles.
"We'll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis", Han told the BBC in an interview, threatening "all-out war" if the USA took any action against it.
Arriving in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence hailed the two countries' longstanding security ties.
"The alliance between the United States and Japan is the cornerstone of peace and security in Northeast Asia", he told Abe. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.
"As long as the USA and its vassal forces scheme to bring down the socialist system in the DPRK, it will further increase its military muscle, protect peace and security of the country by its own efforts and invariably pursue its line in the future, too", the ambassador said.
About 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan and a further 28,000 are in South Korea.
North Korea could react to a potential USA strike by targeting South Korea or Japan, and officials in both countries have been ill at ease with the more bellicose language deployed by President Donald Trump's administration.
Wearing a green flight jacket, Pence also sought to reassure jittery allies - who have seen Trump call into question decades-old mutual defense treaties - of America's commitment.
The North regularly launches short-range missiles, but is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target USA troops in Asia and, eventually, the US mainland.
Days later, monitoring group 38 North said its analysis had concluded that North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear site is "primed and ready" for a sixth nuclear test.
North Korea's deputy representative to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, accused the United States on Monday of creating "a situation where nuclear war could break out an any time" and said the North's next nuclear test would take place "at a time and at a place where our headquarters deems necessary".
Meanwhile, the U.S. waded again into military action, dropping a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), the United States military's largest non-nuclear weapon, on an ISIS hideout in Afghanistan, the first time this type of weapon has been used in battle, according to USA officials. Meanwhile, in the face of the looming threat from North Korea, Japan begins to hold evacuation drills to prepare for any potential North Korean missile launched aimed at the country.
In early March, the North simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which fell provocatively close to Japan, in what it said was a drill for an attack on U.S. bases in the country.
Its latest missile test on Sunday failed a few seconds after launch.
"That's a common failure mode for North Korean missiles very early on in their development cycle when they are working out the bugs in the propulsion and guidance system", the weapons expert told AFP.
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The next step would be to bring home the 54,000 USA troops stationed in Japan and another 25,000 troops in South Korea. It responded to America's latest threats by firing a missile on Sunday, which exploded seconds later.
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