North Korean official vows frequent missile tests as tensions escalate

He said a unified effort to contain North Korea's threat is a positive step to protect not only United States security interests but also those in the region.

"The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready".

Tensions on the peninsula have ratcheted up in recent weeks amid saber-rattling from the U.S. and North Korea and analysts' warnings that North Korea is preparing for a sixth nuclear test. Trump administration officials in recent days have said the Obama administration's strategy of "strategic patience" is over.

However, Trump said he is dealing with China "with great respect", questioning the efficiency of waging a trade war with China at a time when China is trying to help resolve the North Korean issue.

Pence also said the USA would protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the sea lanes vital to global shipping where China has been staking claim to disputed territory.

"Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response".

Pence's speech on the aircraft carrier followed meetings Tuesday in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where he noted that "all options are on the table".

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States and amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula, it has escalated a war of words, warning of full-out nuclear war if Washington takes military action against it.

Mr Abe said it was a "matter of paramount importance for us to seek diplomatic efforts as well peaceable settlements of the issue".

Experts point out that China also wants to prevent North Korea from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power - and certainly wants to prevent a war on its southern border that could send millions of refugees flooding into China and potentially risk bringing a USA military presence to China's borders.

The North conducted two nuclear bomb tests and 24 ballistic missile tests last year, defying six Security Council sanctions resolutions banning any testing, and it has conducted additional missile tests this year, including one on Saturday that failed.

North Korea, however, withdrew from the six-party talks aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in 2009 and has shown no interest in returning.

Pence told reporters Monday that Trump was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its weapons program.

South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a TV debate over the planned US -supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system which has angered China, with frontrunner Moon Jae-in criticised for leaving his options open.

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