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Pence talks tough on North ahead of summit

June 29,2017
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence upped the pressure on North Korea ahead of the first summit between the South Korean and U.S. leaders, saying Washington will not back down on its economic and diplomatic measures until Pyongyang “permanently abandons” its nuclear program.

Pence said that the “brutal regime in North Korea” is the “greatest threat facing the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region” in an address to the U.S.-India Business Council on Tuesday in Washington.

“All of us must continue to step forward to work in close cooperation with one another and all our allies and partners in the region,” he continued, “to ensure that we bring the appropriate amount of economic and diplomatic pressure until North Korea permanently abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all.”

The hard-line remarks came shortly before President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a summit Thursday and Friday in Washington, where North Korea policy coordination will be a top priority.

The summit will be an opportunity for Moon to pitch to Trump his two-track, stage-by-stage approach of pressure alongside engagement. Both leaders have asserted interest in dialogue with the North if certain preconditions are met, and this would be a chance for them to clarify what those prerequisites are. Pence in his speech praised, “India’s leadership in fully implementing the United Nations’ sanctions and for its commitment to use its growing global leverage to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.”

North Korea was a topic that was raised in the summit between Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday in Washington, in which the two leaders called upon Pyongyang to “strictly abide by its international obligations and commitments,” according to the White House.

Trump said in a joint statement with Modi, “The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems” and that the issue should probably be “dealt with rapidly.” He further noted that the U.S., Indian and Japanese navies will come together for the “largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean,” which could be seen as a message to Beijing.

Washington appears to be growing frustrated with China for not doing enough to exert its influence over North Korea, which may be reflected in Trump and Moon’s discussions.

The UN Security Council rolled out a new U.S.-drafted sanctions resolution against Pyongyang at the beginning of this month, expanding its blacklist of North Korean officials and entities. China and the United States had wrangled over a draft version of the sanction, and the one that passed was a watered down version, as Beijing insisted on the need to return to dialogue.

Meanwhile, U.S. congressmen have issued statements welcoming Moon’s inaugural visit to Washington, calling the meeting a chance to reaffirm the South Korea-U.S. alliance amid challenges to the security of the region.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]