U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. is quietly confident that China will do more to influence North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program.
Pence spoke Saturday in Sydney at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Both the U.S. and Australia have pressured China to take more responsibility in influencing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
Pence said Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program “represents a threat to the stability and security of this region and potentially a threat to the continental United States…”
Vinson to arrive soon
The U.S. vice president, who is the first senior official of the Trump administration to visit Australia, said “continuing on the path the world has been on with North Korea over the last 25 years is just unacceptable.”
Pence said an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, heading for waters off the Korean peninsula would be in the Sea of Japan within days.
Turnbull said China could use its economic leverage to force North Korea into compliance.
US will honor resettlement deal
Pence also confirmed the U.S. would honor a controversial refugee program with Australia that would resettle 1,250 asylum seekers in the U.S. President Trump has described the Obama administration refugee deal as “dumb.”
Earlier, the two leaders appeared at pains to present a united front following the tension between the longtime allies sparked by a spat over the refugee resettlement deal struck by the Obama administration.
Pence’s visit Down Under, part of his 10-day, four-country trip to the Pacific Rim, is widely viewed as an effort to smooth over relations with Australia. Indeed, the vice president seemed determined to reassure Australia of its importance to the U.S., noting as he stood next to Turnbull on the shores of Sydney Harbor: “It’s always heartening to stand beside a friend, and I do so today.”
Both leaders also repeatedly cited the nations’ long history of military cooperation. Australia has fought alongside the U.S. in every major conflict since World War I, and is one of the largest contributors to the U.S.-led military campaign in Iraq and Syria.
“I trust that my visit here today on my very first trip to the Asia Pacific as vice president of the United States and the president’s plans to travel to this region this fall are a strong sign of our enduring commitment to the historic alliance between the people of the United States of America and the people of Australia,” Pence said.
The U.S. vice president is on the final leg of a 10-day, four country trip to Asia that has already taken him to South Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.