Pence, Abe stand strong against North

Kim Jong-un invites South's Moon to Pyongyang

The two met at the prime minister's residence and held a joint press conference afterward, in which Abe said that he and Pence shared reservations about what he described as North Korea's "smile diplomacy".

Pence, who arrived in Japan on Tuesday to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is travelling to South Korea Thursday to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony, just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily armed border with North Korea.

Mike Pense and Donald Trump.

Washington, however, has not ruled out the possibility of contact between the United States and North Korean officials during the Olympics, with the White House, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Pence all touting a "wait-and-see" approach.

Abe said, "We can never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea", warning against North Korea's "charm offensive" surrounding the PyeongChang Olympics.

His trip to South Korea from Thursday will coincide with a visit to the games by North Korea's ceremonial leader, Kim Yong Nam, the most senior North Korean official to enter the South since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce.

But so far, China has failed to agree to a game-changing oil embargo, and there remains fierce debate inside the White House on whether preemptive military action will be needed to stop North Korea's drive for nuclear power status.

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

North South Korea Olympics
Matthias Hangst Getty Images

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency cited parliamentary sources in reporting Monday on the North's suspected involvement in the January 26 heist, in which hackers made off with 58 billion yen ($526 million) worth of the cryptocurrency NEM from Japan's Coincheck.

Washington also passed its own unilateral measures against North Korea and foreign firms that it has caught doing business with Pyongyang or the Kim Jong Un regime.

Pence toured joint USA and Japanese operations centers at the US base that monitor and react to crises on the peninsula and the region at large.

A decision by North Korea to send the artists by sea has triggered debate in the South, where conservatives see the move as a clear indication the North is trying to use the Olympics to ease sanctions against it.

On Sunday, the North Korean government shot back that its nuclear missile program would 'deter Trump and his lackeys from showing off on the Korean peninsula'.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would be unveiled "in the coming weeks" and urged all countries to fully implement existing United Nations sanctions and to back the U.S. pressure campaign by expelling North Korean "financial facilitators and trade reps".

Over Twitter Wednesday, Pence said his meeting with Abe would focus on joint efforts to "put crippling pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear efforts". He also participated in a briefing at Japan's Ministry of Defense on the threat. His mission is to counter North Korea's propaganda efforts at the Olympics by reminding the world that North Korea is a murderous country, not a normal state.

Pence is taking the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died previous year after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.



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