Asia-Pacific

US working with allies on N.Korea: Pence

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to U.S. servicemen and Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel on the flight deck of U.S. navy nuclear-powered carrier Source: AAP

Speaking aboard the USS Ronald Reagan in Yokosuka, Mike Pence said the US would apply economic pressure on Pyongyang, but hasn't ruled out strikes if provoked.

US Vice President Mike Pence says Washington will work with its allies and China to put economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea, but added that America would defeat any attack with an "overwhelming response".

Pence arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday from South Korea and reassured Japan of US commitment to reining in North Korea's nuclear and missile ambitions in a series of meetings with Japanese leaders, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Speaking aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier currently undergoing scheduled maintenance at its home port of Yokosuka, Pence said US intentions remained unwavering in the face of the threat posed by the reclusive North, which has conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, most recently with a failed missile launch on Sunday.

"Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and beat any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response," Pence said to loud applause, reiterating that all options are on the table in dealing with Pyongyang.

Pence made his remarks as the White House grappled with controversy over the location of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group that US President Donald Trump said last week had been sent to near the Korean peninsula as a warning to North Korea, but which headed towards Australia instead.

Pence said he had spoken with Trump and by 2020 some 60 per cent of the US naval fleet would be in the region and Japan's role will grow.

"The United States will strengthen its presence in the Asia Pacific," he said. "Japan will assume a larger role and responsibility in our alliance in the years ahead."

Pence also said the United States would protect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where Beijing is entangled in territorial rows with several Southeast Asia nations.

Pence arrived in Japan after visiting South Korea and leaves for Indonesia later on Wednesday.

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