U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Japan’s defense ministry Wednesday — part of a multi-day Asia tour that will end with him in South Korea for the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Pence surveyed Japan’s Patriot PAC-3 missile battery — Tokyo’s last line of defense against possible North Korean missile strikes — was accompanied by Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Japan’s highest-ranking military officer, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano.
Onodera said he was “happy” to deepen U.S. understanding of Japan’s security environment.
In joint remarks with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, Pence referred to President Donald Trump as a “great friend” to the people of Japan.
“Security in the Indo-Pacific is the main reason I came to Japan,” he said.
The vice president also pledged that the Trump administration is committed to aiding Japan handle any future threats from Pyongyang.
“I’m announcing today that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever,” he said. “We will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all.”
Pence’s remarks allude partly to a number of ballistic missile tests conducted by North Korea in the past year, as well as a new type of ICBM that was test-fired about 2,500 miles high before hitting the sea within Japan’s economic zone.
Abe said the U.S.-Japan alliance was “more robust and unwavering than ever,” adding that the two countries could not expect and “meaningful dialogue” from North Korea.
Pence is scheduled to address U.S. military personnel at Yokota Air Base Thursday before flying to Pyeongchang for the start of the 23rd Winter Olympic Games on Friday. He and second lady Karen Pence, will lead the U.S. Delegation.
The White House said in a statement that the Pences’ presence at the Olympics will “reinforce the strong U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula and send a clear message of American resolve to the North Korean regime.”
Before beginning his trip to Japan, Pence visited Alaska with a stop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Monday, where he reviewed U.S. military capabilities.
“I thought it was altogether fitting to begin here at Elmendorf, the first line of defense for the American people,” Pence said at the base.
“Missile defense begins here in Alaska. And the American people and the world should know that our nation is secure. Our nation’s defenses from potential inbound missile attacks is the best in the world.”
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