US VP Pence warns North Korea: 'The sword stands ready'

Apr 20, 2017, 08:50

Pence was speaking to hundreds of USA and Japanese sailors from the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in the Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

"My hope is that they'll continue to get the message not just from the United States, here in Japan, and in South Korea, but on an increasing basis from China and countries all over the world committing to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula", he said.

"North Korea is the most risky and urgent threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific", he said.

"Those who would challenge our resolve or our readiness should know: We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response".

North Korea's vice-foreign minister told the BBC Pyongyang would continue to test missiles and would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike if it thought the United States was planning an attack. The term "reckless" is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale US and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

Pence's speech on the aircraft carrier followed meetings Tuesday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where he noted that "all options are on the table".

North Korea did test a missile on Sunday, but by US and South Korean accounts it failed "within seconds".

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North Korea-US tension is growing.

Steven Weber, an expert on North Korea and political science professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said Trump's unpredictability likely stems from the fact that his administration does not yet have a clear strategic vision for North Korea.

Since Donald Trump took office, North Korea has launched at least eight ballistic missiles, and there is evidence that the North is preparing for a sixth nuclear test.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that the most serious national security crisis President Trump will face will be North Korea during his first term.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing that Beijing was firmly opposed to any words or actions that could further provoke tensions.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters 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". AP reporter Jonathan Lemire reported from NY.