US VP Pence says to North Korea: 'The sword stands ready'

Pence reiterated the commitment to defend USA allies in the region from North Korea - which he called "the most unsafe and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific" during remarks to US and Japanese troops aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

North Korea will continue to test missiles regularly and any military action against it by the United States would prompt "all-out war", a senior North Korean official tells the BBC.

But officials have avoided tipping their hand as to how the administration will proceed, instead touting Trump's unpredictability as a deterrent for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to weigh carefully.

Experts warn that by its very nature, shooting down one of North Korea's test missiles would bring a substantial risk of escalation - and perhaps push the scope of consequences outside the Pentagon's control and impact US allies in the region, particularly Japan and South Korea.

Pence's visit to Japan comes amid the aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula with the South Korea and USA military reporting April 16 that they had witnessed what they believe to be a failed missile test by Pyongyang which followed a number of missile launches and nuclear tests by Pyongyang considered to be in violation with the UN Security Council resolution.

Speaking inside the ship's ceremonial room, the vice president spoke to CNN after addressing about 2,500 troops on the ship's deck - something he said he's never done before. The term "reckless" is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale US and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion. But the vice president expressed impatience with the unwillingness of North Korea to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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Trump's decision to scrap the ambitious 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal championed by former president Barack Obama was a blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expended substantial political capital to get the accord passed at home.

Mr Mattis did not identify the type of missile but said it was not of intercontinental range, meaning it could not reach USA territory. He again reiterated that with the Trump administration, "the era of strategic patience is over".

The White House faces mounting pressure to set conditions and limits for prospective intervention in North Korea. The USS Nimitz will be joining the Ronald Reagan near the Korean peninsula, in yet another display of Washington's commitment to maintain peace and security in the region.

North Korea did test a missile on Sunday, but by US and South Korean accounts it failed "within seconds".

China made a plea for a return to negotiations.

The Guardian report said Defense Secretary James Mattis has already briefed Congress on the possibility, but the Pentagon has not yet decided whether to go ahead with the option. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute to a peaceful resolution.

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