Pence Heads to Seoul Despite North Korea's Missile Launch Attempt

Jerome Frank
April 17, 2017

Japan's National Security Council (NSC) discussed how to evacuate its almost 60,000 citizens from South Korea in the event of a crisis, a government official said yesterday amid rising concern over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. His travels to the Asia-Pacific region come amid indications that North Korea is potentially preparing its sixth nuclear test in a decade or a significant missile launch, such as its first flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site from April 12 shows continued activity around the North Portal, new activity in the main administrative area, and a few personnel around the site's Command Center", 38 North said on its website. US officials aboard Air Force 2, the jet carrying Pence and his wife to Seoul, said the flight remained on schedule to arrive in the South Korean capital Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m. local time, 0230 EDT, 0630 UTC).

"We are in close contact with the US and South Korea and in addition to urging (North Korea) to refrain from provocative actions and observe relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will take all necessary steps to protect our people's lives and assets", Mr Suga said.

Hours before Pence left, North Korea showed off its ICBMs in a military display at the annual parade in the capital that celebrates the birthday of the North's founding ruler, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. On Thursday, it released a statement that promised a "merciless retaliatory strike" for any USA attack. The Associated Press has reported, citing unidentified US officials, that Washington would focus on "maximum pressure and engagement" to induce the North to denuclearize.

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Pence will be diving into a tense standoff along the Korean Peninsula with visits to South Korea and Japan beginning Sunday.

The appointee of former President Barack Obama said Trump was "making it worse" by sending the aircraft carrier. China, the North's biggest trading partner and the crutch that keeps its economy afloat, has so far shown little appetite for pulling the plug on North Korea.

The North faced severe sanctions from the UN Security Council for a series of missile launches a year ago, in addition to two nuclear tests. He said Pence will try to balance reassurance with a willingness to respond if North Korea acts.

Kim has pointed to nuclear weapons as the foundation of his national defense strategy and has openly sought a nuclear weapon that could strike the continental United States.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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