TOKYO - Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the United States will soon announce its "the toughest and most aggressive" economic sanctions ever against North Korea.
Speaking after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence said the U.S. pressure on North Korea will continue until it "abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all."
The vice president provided no details on what sectors the sanctions would cover or when they would be announced.
Both Pence and Abe, at their meeting and then again in joint statements at the Prime Minister’s official residence, spoke of strengthening the military alliance between Japan and the United States amid the threat from North Korea.
“The United States is committed to provide Japan with additional cutting-edge defense systems, and our nations are now working together to deliver these new defense systems as quickly as possible,” said Pence, who earlier in the day at the Japanese defense ministry watched a PAC-3 interceptor missile battery’s launcher raised to its firing position.
The Japanese leader said he and Pence had spent “a good amount of time” on Wednesday discussing North Korea and have “completely aligned” their polices about Pyongyang.
Abe added that North Korea continues to engage in provocative actions, noting an expected military parade in Pyongyang as the Winter Olympic Games get under way the same day in South Korea.
Both Abe and Pence expressed pessimism that a slight loosening in the tension between North and South Korea will last.
North Korea has been responsible for “a cycle of broken promises, willful deception, and escalating provocations,” said Pence.
The vice president is on a multi-stop trip to Northeast Asia that includes leading the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"We'll be there to cheer our athletes, but we'll also be there to stand with our allies and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," he said.
Some North Korean athletes are participating in the games and will march under one flag with South Korea's delegation.
"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games," Pence added.
U.S. officials, including Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have not ruled out the possibility that the vice president might meet a North Korean official at the sporting event.
“With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting,” Vice President Mike Pence said in Alaska on Monday. “But we’ll see what happens.”
Among those in the delegation Pyongyang is sending south are Kim Yong Nam, who is the ceremonial head of North Korea’s government and Kim Yo Jong, an influential sister of leader Kim Jong Un.
Others attending as official members of the delegation are Pence's wife, Karen Pence; Army General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. and United Nations forces on the peninsula; Brooks’ predecessor, retired Army General James Thurman; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce; Chargé d'Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul Marc Knapper; and 2002 Olympic figure skating gold medal winner Sara Hughes.
Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea and died last year after returning to the United States in a coma, will be Pence’s designated special guest at the opening ceremony.
The sight of Warmbier alongside Pence will serve to “remind the world of the atrocities that happen in North Korea,” according to a White House official.
Following remarks to U.S. military personnel at Yokota Air Base in Japan on Wednesday morning the vice president heads to Seoul where he will hold talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.