Pence heads for Seoul on North Korea’s ‘Day of the Sun’

by WorldTribune Staff, April 14, 2017

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set to travel to South Korea as North Korea celebrates its founding, or “Day of the Sun”, possibly by conducting another nuclear test.

Pence expects to discuss the “belligerence” of North Korea at subsequent stops in Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney, during his 10-day tour of Asia, a White House foreign policy adviser said, according to a Reuters report.

Vice President Mike Pence begins his 10-day Asia tour on April 16 in South Korea. /AP

The White House has contingency plans for Pence’s trip should it coincide with another North Korean nuclear test, the adviser said.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a new surprise for us. He (Kim Jong-Un) continues to develop this program, he continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan,” the adviser said.

“With the regime it’s not a matter of if – it’s when. We are well prepared to counter that.”

In his first foreign excursion as vice president, Pence plans to celebrate Easter in South Korea on April 16 with U.S. and Korean troops before talks on April 17 with acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-Ahn.

Meanwhile, in Pyongyang, North Korea commemorates the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il-Sung on April 15.

Kim Jong-Un, grandson of Kim Il-Sung, warned foreign journalists to prepare for a “big event” on the Day of the Sun. New satellite images show continued activity at the Punggye-ri Nuclear site where U.S. officials fear a nuclear device has been installed in a tunnel ahead of another test.

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned North Korea against further provocations, sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to the region as a show of force.

“We’re going to consult with the Republic of Korea on North Korea’s efforts to advance its ballistic missile and its nuclear program,” the White House adviser told reporters, previewing Pence’s trip.

The need for “free and fair trade” will also be a theme of the vice president’s trip, the adviser said.

On April 18, Pence will kick off economic talks with Japan requested by Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The discussions will focus more on setting a “framework” for future talks rather than on specific industry issues, a White House official said.

Pence will meet with business leaders at each stop, including in Jakarta, though he was not expected to wade into the weedy details of disputes between the Indonesian government and U.S. companies like mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc (FCX.N), the Reuters report said.

“We’re going to discuss the business environment in Indonesia in a general sense,” a White House official said.

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