Abe, Pence confirm solid alliance to counter N. Korea

Pool photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence on Tuesday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun/The Japan News Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence agreed on Tuesday that the two nations would join hands to increase pressure on North Korea, which has repeatedly engaged in provocative missile launches and nuclear tests.

During the meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, Abe and Pence also agreed to seek for China to play a larger role, as it has influence over North Korea.

Pence arrived in Tokyo from South Korea on the day. It was the first time for the U.S. vice president to visit Japan since the inauguration of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The Abe-Pence meeting included a luncheon hosted by the prime minister.

Pence said the United States considers the alliance to be a “cornerstone” of peace and security in the region.

“We appreciate the challenging times in which the people of Japan live with increasing provocation across the Sea of Japan,” Pence said, adding, “We are with you 100 percent.”

Pence indicated Washington would not rule out a military action, reiterating, “The era of strategic patience is over,” and, “All options are on the table.”

Pence also said, “We seek peace always ... but as you know and the United States knows peace comes through strength.”

Abe said, “My hope is to send out a clear message that the robust bond between our alliance is unwavering.”

He said he values the Trump administration’s policy against North Korea. “Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure against North Korea so that it comes forward and engages in this serious dialogue,” he added.

Tensions are rising as some observers say North Korea will likely conduct missile launches and a nuclear test again while the United States has increased pressure by dispatching the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to waters near the Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, Pence is scheduled to visit the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base to inspect the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, and to give a lecture in Tokyo.

Economic dialogue meeting

The first meeting of the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue was also held later in the day at the Prime Minister’s Office, led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who also serves as finance minister, and Pence.

Aso and Pence agreed that the two nations would have discussions on common strategies on trade and investment rules. They listed three pillars, including the common strategies, based on which they will proceed with the economic dialogue. The other pillars are economic, fiscal and structural policies as well as cooperation in sectors with potential for job creation. The next meeting likely will be held within the year to work out concrete plans.

Aso said, “We hope [the dialogue] will lead to achieving strong economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and the world as a whole.”

Meanwhile, Pence indicated that the dialogue could turn to bilateral free trade negotiations, saying at a joint press conference with Aso, “At some point in the future, there may be a decision between our nations to take what we have learned in this dialogue and commence formal negotiations for a free trade agreement.”Speech

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