US Gets Tough on North Korea as New Sanctions Loom on the Horizon

US Gets Tough on North Korea as New Sanctions Loom on the Horizon

Wednesday, 7 February, 2018 - 10:15
US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen walk upon his arrival at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that Washington would soon announce its "toughest sanctions ever" on North Korea to persuade it to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

Speaking in Tokyo on his way to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Pence promised the United States and its allies, including Japan, would keep maximum pressure on Pyongyang until it took steps toward "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization".

"To that end, I'm announcing today the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever. And we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all," Pence said after meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The VP’s three-day visit to Japan came as Washington seeks to bolster ties with its allies in the region and maintain pressure on the regime in Pyongyang despite a recent thaw on the peninsula.

"All options are on the table and the US has deployed some of our most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region to protect our homeland and our allies and we will continue to," vowed Pence.

To highlight what Washington calls the regime's human rights "abuses", the vice president will attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics with the father of the late former North Korea prisoner Otto Warmbier.

The US and North Korea have been locked in a fierce war of words.

US President Donald Trump has mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un as "rocket man" and the young dictator has threatened to rain nuclear destruction on the United States. 

But Kim has taken a more conciliatory tone in 2018, calling for detente with the South Koreans and accepting an invitation for his country to participate in what is being billed as the "peace Olympics."

Officials said Wednesday that the North Korean leader’s sister, an increasingly prominent figure in the country's leadership, will be part of the North's delegation to the Olympics.

Kim Yo Jong, believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s, would be the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Analysts say her inclusion in the Olympic delegation shows North Korea's ambition to use the Olympics to break out from diplomatic isolation by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

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