US: VP Pence reaffirms alliance with S. Korea during first stop in Asia
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US: VP Pence reaffirms alliance with S. Korea during first stop in Asia

UNITED STATES Vice-President Mike Pence has reiterated his country’s commitment to alliance with South Korea has never been stronger. The comment comes following North Korea’s much-anticipated missile test on Sunday, which failed.

Pence arrived in South Korea over the weekend, hours before North Korea launched its missile test, which according to the US Pacific Command “blew up almost immediately”.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a military parade and a public procession of Pyongyang citizens celebrating the 105th birth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung. Source: Reuters/KCNA

As the missile test loomed closer, tensions rose on the Korean peninsula. North Korea vowed to continue testing and advancing its nuclear programme. On Saturday, as the reclusive country celebrated the 105th anniversary of its founder’s birth, North Korea warned against US “hysteria”.

SEE ALSO: North Korea warns of nuclear strike if provoked; Trump ‘armada’ steams on

Pence is embarking on a 10-day trip around Asia, Australia and Hawaii. Pence’s office said in a statement: “This trip will serve as the vice-president’s first official travel to the Asia-Pacific region.

“During his trip, the vice-president will emphasise President Trump’s continued commitment to US alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, highlight the administration’s economic agenda, and underscore America’s unwavering support for our troops at home and abroad.”

Pence, who addressed American troops stationed in South Korea on Easter Sunday morning during a service, said: “Let me assure you under President Trump’s leadership, our resolve has never been stronger.

Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger.” – Pence

Blame for North Korea’s determination to continue with its nuclear programme has fallen on China, which is one of its few allies. Last week, China’s President Xi Jinping called for a peaceful resolution to the rising tension between North Korea and other countries in a phone call with US President Donald Trump.

SEE ALSO: In call with Trump, China’s Xi urges peaceful end to North Korea tension

China banned imports of North Korean coal on Feb 26, cutting off its most important export. China’s customs department issued an order on April 7 telling traders to return North Korean coal cargoes, said trading sources with knowledge of the order.

Saturday’s parade combined with Sunday’s failed missile launch made a sixth nuclear test increasingly likely, and if one was carried out, China would be compelled to support new sanctions against North Korea, the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by China’s Communist Party paper said in an editorial.

“Beijing should make clear to Pyongyang through diplomatic channels: if the DPRK in spite of the opposition of the international community (carry out a sixth nuclear test), China should cut off the vast majority of their oil supply and China should support the Security Council to pass new sanctions including this measure,” the paper said, referring to North Korea by its official title, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

On Sunday, Trump sent a tweet out that defended his volte face on calling China a currency manipulator, considering China is “working with us on the North Korean problem”. He previously blamed China for the US-China trade deficit, saying it reflected bad trade deals and currency manipulation.

Additional reporting by Reuters