World

US to unveil ‘toughest sanctions ever’ on N. Korea: Pence

TOKYO Washington will soon unveil its "toughest and most aggressive sanctions" against North Korea, US Vice-President Mike Pence said yesterday after talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

He also warned that North Korea, which will participate in this month's Winter Olympics as part of a joint delegation with South Korea, would not be allowed to "hijack" the event with its "propaganda".

"I'm announcing today that the US will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea," Mr Pence said, standing alongside Mr Abe after talks on the threat posed by Pyongyang.

"Let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation," he added.

US President Donald Trump has criticised the policy of previous administrations towards North Korea and has convinced the global community to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.

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 pre-emptive military action will be needed to stop North Korea's drive for nuclear power status.

OPTIONS

Mr Pence stressed yesterday that "all options are on the table" and pledged Washington would continue to deploy some of its "most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region" to protect against the North Korean threat.

Mr Abe, who like Mr Pence will travel to South Korea's Pyeongchang for the Winter Games, said he had told Mr Pence: "We can never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea."

"We should not be captivated by the charm offensive of North Korea," he added.

North and South Korea have, at least temporarily, put aside their enmity to allow Pyongyang to send athletes to the Games, an opening that some see as an opportunity to push for a negotiated settlement.

Mr Pence warned that North Korea would not be allowed to instrumentalise the Games.

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

"We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region." - AFP

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