- The Washington Times
Friday, April 14, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence is heading to South Korea on Sunday to kick off a trip to a handful of Asia Pacific countries, amid tensions between the United States and North Korea and a potentially forthcoming nuclear test.

Mr. Pence’s upcoming trip to South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia will lay out the administration’s policies to allies and partners in the Asia Pacific region, according to the White House.

One theme to be reinforced throughout each visit will be that “we are fully committed to our security alliances, especially in the face of our evolving security challenges,” according to a senior administration official.

“And you’ve seen the nuclear threat of North Korea, and we’ll reinforce those security alliances,” the official said on a background conference call.

Some observers are anticipating that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could try to order a nuclear test on Saturday to coincide with the national holiday commemorating the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

“They’ve telegraphed a bit. It’s not a surprise that the anniversary is on Saturday,” an official said. “Traditionally, in the big parade — rolls out his weapons and his mock weapons. So we’re anticipating that.”

Other broader goals of the trip are to communicate that withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership doesn’t mean a retreat from the region and to reinforce partnerships with key countries, according to the call.

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