TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited a Japanese Patriot PAC-3 missile battery, Japan’s last line of defense against any possible North Korean missile strike, in Tokyo on Wednesday on his way to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Pence watched the battery raised to a firing position and got a briefing before shaking hands with members of the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan’s military is known. He was accompanied by Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera and Japan’s highest ranking military officer, Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano.
Noting North Korea’s advances in missile technology and China’s increasing maritime assertiveness, Onodera said: “I‘m happy to have the opportunity to deepen the U.S. understanding of Japan’s tough security environment.”
Pence will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later on Wednesday for talks expected to showcase the tight U.S.-Japan security alliance in the face of the threat from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
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.
Pence stopped short of ruling out the prospect of meeting senior North Korean officials but President Donald Trump has cast doubt on U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang any time soon. The White House has also cautioned against reading too much into remarks made by Pence en route to Japan. [nL2N1PW07E]
Pence said before arriving his message to the North was clear: Washington and its allies would keep pressing Pyongyang to give up its missile and nuclear programs.
“... my message -- whatever the setting, whoever is present -- will be the same. And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions,” he told reporters during the flight to Japan.