Pence reaffirms US-Australia alliance, asks China to pressurize N.Korea

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Sydney, April 23 (IANS) US Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the country’s historic alliance with Australia, and urged China to enhance its efforts to pressure North Korea to curb its nuclear program.

Mike Pence on Saturday said during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that the Donald Trump administration would work closely with Australia, China and other allies in the region to ramp up diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang, Efe news reported.

He added that if China was unable to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the US and its allies would deal with North Korea instead, and said “all options are on the table”.

His statements came amid an escalation in tensions between Washington and Pyongyang due to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile tests, which prompted the US to send nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and its strike group to the Korean Peninsula.

The USS Carl Vinson will arrive on the Korean Peninsula shortly, according to Pence.

Turnbull also called on China to show leadership and make a “stronger commitment to ensure North Korea stops this reckless and dangerous conduct”, adding that “the eyes of the world are on Beijing”.

Pence and Turnbull said they had discussed other issues including the South China Sea dispute in which at least five countries of the region are involved.

The US politician on Saturday met with Australia’s Governor General Peter Cosgrove, and held meetings with opposition leader Bill Shorten, senior military officials and businessmen.

On Sunday, he is scheduled to visit Sydney with his wife and two children.

Australia is the last leg of Pence’s 10-day Asia-Pacific tour which will conclude on Monday, when he will depart for Hawaii.

His visit to Australia is particularly significant because of the controversial telephone conversation between Trump and Turnbull early this year over a refugee deal signed by former US president Barack Obama.

Trump publicly described the deal, allowing resettlement of 1,259 refugees in the US, as “dumb”.

Pence and Turnbull reiterated several times on Saturday the importance of the alliance and friendship between the two countries.

–IANS

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