U.S. Vice President Mike Pence left Monday to visit Japan and South Korea, where he will attend the Olympics and deliver a message of resolve against North Korea's nuclear weapons.
Pence left Washington after holding a closed-door meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House. The five-day trip comes as tensions persist over North Korea's pursuit of a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S.
Speaking in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Friday, the vice president said he will use his trip to the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, to make clear that "all options are on the table" to deal with the North Korean threat.
"We will continue to bring all economic and diplomatic pressure to bear until North Korea permanently abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all," he said.
Pence will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday. He will be joined by the father of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student who was detained in North Korea and died shortly after being sent home in a coma last year.
Trump has accused Pyongyang of human rights abuses, including Warmbier's death, and last week raised the issue in his State of the Union address. He also invited a group of North Korean defectors to meet with him at the White House.
The attacks on Pyongyang's human rights record are seen by some as a strategy to step up pressure on the regime.
Pence will make his first stop in Anchorage, Alaska, where he will visit a military base and receive a briefing on aerospace and missile defense. He will then head to Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and arrive in South Korea Thursday.
In South Korea, the vice president is scheduled to meet with President Moon Jae-in and also visit a memorial for the 46 South Korean sailors who were killed in a North Korean torpedo attack.
The PyeongChang Olympics have been closely followed since North Korea agreed last month to send a delegation to the Games. The agreement was reached in the first high-level, inter-Korean talks in more than two years. (Yonhap)