We'll set 'tough', 'aggressive' sanctions on North Korea - Mike Pence

Mike Pence made the announcement in Japan on Wednesday, following meetings with PM Shinzo Abe.
Mike Pence made the announcement in Japan on Wednesday, following meetings with PM Shinzo Abe. Photo credit: Getty

Vice President Mike Pence says the US is preparing to announce the "toughest and most aggressive" economic sanctions against North Korea in the coming days, boosting pressure on the bellicose government during the Winter Olympics.

Pence, who is set to lead the US delegation to the opening ceremonies on Friday, made the announcement in Japan on Wednesday, following meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"The United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever - and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all," Pence said.

US officials declined to detail the expected sanctions beyond Pence's comments, citing concerns that any additional information could be used by those trying to skirt the new measures. They are expected to be implemented before the conclusion of the games.

On a six-day trip to Japan and South Korea, Pence is seeking to reassure and refocus American allies on the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

In meetings with government leaders, military officials and US service members, Pence said he wants to make sure the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics don't distract from the bellicose North Korean human rights abuses and nuclear program.

"The United States is with you in this challenge," Pence told Abe as they began their bilateral talks.

"And we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Japan, the people of South Korea, and our allies and partners across the region until we achieve the global objective of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

Pence watched Japanese troops demonstrate the simulated deployment of Japan's surface-to-air missile defense system, which would attempt to intercept a North Korean missile.

Pence promised that "all options are on the table" to address the North Korean threat.

Pence will travel on to South Korea Thursday for meetings with President Moon Jae-in, where he will promote the Trump administration's campaign of "maximum pressure" against the North, as the South pursues a diplomatic opening around the Winter Olympics.

Pence has not ruled out a potential meeting with North Korean officials at the Olympics, telling reporters, "we'll see what happens."

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games," he said.

"We'll be there to cheer our athletes, but we'll also be there to stand with our allies, and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet."

Reuters