Pence makes first trip to Asia as tension mounts with North Korea

A US aircraft carrier has been dispatched to waters off the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference yesterday that the government was always collecting and analysing information about North Korea but refrained from giving details. The Associated Press has reported, citing unidentified USA officials, that Washington would focus on "maximum pressure and engagement" to induce the North to denuclearize.

There are about 200 reporters, including those from the U.S., that are now in Pyongyang as the country prepares to mark the 105th anniversary. In its statement released Thursday, it warned: "By relentlessly bringing in a number of strategic nuclear assets to the Korean peninsula, the U.S.is gravely threatening the peace and safety and driving the situation to the brink of a nuclear war".

The U.S.is prepared to take a preemptive strike against the North's nuclear sites, the adviser and other officials said.

After a two-month policy review, the Trump administration has settled on a policy toward the North that relies on "maximum pressure and engagement", USA officials said Friday.

Besides commercial ships and planes, Japan would want to send military aircraft and ships to assist in the evacuation if South Korea agreed, the official, familiar with the discussion, said. He said Pence will try to balance reassurance with a willingness to respond if North Korea acts.

"The most important message from the vice president on behalf of the president is that we have an ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the region, in their defense", Pence Press Secretary Marc Lotter said in an interview on ABC's "Powerhouse Politics" podcast ahead of the trip.

While Pyongyang's behavior riled the Obama administration, North Korea has taken an even more aggressive posture in the region in recent months, conducting several missile and rocket engine tests since the start of the year.

Sunday's launch comes a day after the 105th birthday of late North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.

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