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US Senate Prepares to Tackle Immigration Reform

The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on a topic Congress has left unaddressed for decades: immigration reform.

“Yes, it’s going to happen right here — stay tuned,” Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said in a recent floor speech. “Next week could be historic.”

President Donald Trump has consistently framed immigration reform as a security matter, first and foremost.

“Glaring loopholes in our laws have allowed criminals and gang members to break into our country,” Trump said in his weekly address, issued Sunday. “During my State of the Union, I called on Congress to immediately close dangerous loopholes in federal law that have endangered our communities and imposed enormous burdens on U.S. taxpayers.”

Of immediate concern to many lawmakers of both political parties are hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants soon to be at risk of deportation. Some Republicans also want to reshape and restrict legal immigration, which could have a major impact on those aspiring to come to America from around the world.

Trump set the stage for the upcoming debate last year, when he terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that granted temporary work and study permits to immigrants brought illegally to America as children, and gave Congress a March 5 deadline to address their plight.

“At that point [March 5], 1,000 young people each day, on average, will lose their protection from deportation and their legal right to work in America,” Durbin said.

“I see this as an opportunity for these individuals who have literally grown up in our country to be able to be full participants in our country,” Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said.

The president has made clear he wants more than a DACA fix.

“We need the [border] wall. We’re going to get the wall,” Trump said at the White House last week. “We’ve identified three priorities for creating a safe, modern and lawful immigration system: securing the border, ending chain migration, and canceling the terrible visa lottery.”

Aside from building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has proposed lower the number of immigrants America accepts from around the world and prioritizing newcomers with advanced work skills.

Democrats say they are open to a smaller deal, legal status for DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers and beefing up U.S. borders.

“There’s an appetite on both sides and in both chambers to get this done, both helping the Dreamers and border security,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.

Senior Republican lawmakers say Trump deserves credit for the totality of his immigration proposal.

“President Trump has done something that President Obama never did. He’s offered 1.8 million young adults who are currently DACA recipients and DACA-eligible an opportunity to get on a pathway to American citizenship,” Republican Senator John Cornyn said. “That’s an incredibly generous offer.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has not speculated what, if anything, the chamber might pass.

“While I obviously cannot guarantee any outcome, let alone supermajority support, I can ensure the process is fair to all sides, and that is what I intend to do,” McConnell said last week.

“We’re not going to solve the whole problem in this next week,” Maine independent Senator Angus King warned. “We are not going to solve all of the complicated — and believe me they are complicated — issues.”

McConnell promised an open debate, meaning there is no time limit and senators of both parties can, in theory, offer an unlimited number of proposals for the chamber to consider. Anything the Senate approves would need to pass in the House of Representatives and get Trump’s signature to become law.

 

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White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself

A statement from the White House press secretary Sunday affirmed that “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria.”

The statement follows Israel’s attack Saturday on a dozen Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria. Israel conducted the air strikes after anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli warplane returning from a raid on Iranian-backed positions in Syria. Earlier Israel said it had shot down an Iranian drone launched from Syria after it entered Israeli territory late Friday.

The White House statement urged “Iran and its allies to cease provocative actions and work toward regional peace.”

US: Israel entitled to protect itself

On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Defense also said that Israel is entitled to protect itself against acts of aggression.

“Israel is our closest security partner in the region and we fully support Israel’s inherent right to defend itself against threats to its territory and its people,” said Pentagon spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway, who added the U.S. was not involved in the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I reiterated to him our obligation and right to defend ourselves against attacks from Syrian territory,” he said. “We agreed coordination between our armies would continue,” said Netanyahu, who also discussed the strike with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Syria: New Israeli aggression

Syria’s state media said earlier Saturday Syria is responding to “new Israeli aggression,” following the Israeli raid.

In Saturday’s raid, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet was downed by the Syrian Army with anti-aircraft fire.

The Israeli pilots were able to eject themselves from their aircraft, the IDF said. Israel said one pilot was “severely injured” in the “emergency evacuation,” while another pilot was slightly injured.

Feras Shehabi, a Syrian lawmaker, said Syria’s response to Israel’s assault signals a “major shift in the balance of power in favor of Syria and the axis of resistance.” He said “Israelis must realize they no longer have superiority in the skies or on the ground.”

IDF spokesperson Brigadier General Ronen Manelis said, “Iran is dragging the region into a situation in which it doesn’t know how it will end. We are prepared for a variety of incidents …whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.”

The Syrian attack resulted in air raid sirens being activated in the Golan Heights and Beit She’an, but no casualties were reported.

“The IDF will continue to operate against attempts to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any violations of Israel’s sovereignty,” an IDF spokesperson said Saturday.

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North Korea’s Summit Offer Could Test US-South Korea’s United Nuclear Front

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang could complicate the Trump administration’s diplomatic efforts to pressure the reclusive communist state to abandon its nuclear weapons program, analysts say.

Kim extended the rare invitation to the South Korean leader through his closest confidante: his only sister Kim Yo Jong, who was visiting the South as part of the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics, according to South Korea’s presidential office on Saturday.

Moon said he wanted to “create the environment for that to be able to happen,” according to the office.

​Dialogue or pressure or both?

The North Korean diplomatic initiative comes amid growing international pressure, led by the United States, aimed at imposing maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime. Former U.S. officials and analysts say the North Korean move could put Moon, who supports Trump’s pressure campaign while pursuing dialogue with the North, at odds with the Trump administration.

“The invitation is a very clever move by Kim Jong Un to drive a big wedge [between Washington and Seoul]. Kim has been masterful at public relations in regard to the summit and playing on feelings for Korean unity,” said Robert Manning, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In the past, inter-Korean summits often resulted in a substantial economic aid to Pyongyang. If Moon follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, it would hurt the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against the North, according to Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses.

“If it leads to promises of aid, then it would definitely undermine the maximum pressure strategy,” Gause said, referring to the proposed summit between the two Koreas.

Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, warned Seoul could violate international sanctions by providing economic aid to Pyongyang.

“Moon should realize that offering economic benefits for symbolic North Korean gestures is not only ineffectual but would themselves risk being violations of U.N. resolutions,” Klingner said.

Balancing act

The Moon government has been engaging in a delicate balancing act between Pyongyang and its longtime ally Washington after Kim Jong Un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics in the South. Moon has accommodated the North’s demands on Olympics participation in hopes of persuading Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization, while trying to allay concern in Washington that the North was using a “charm offensive” to simply ease sanctions and earn time to complete its nuclear weapons program. 

The North’s invitation, Manning said, apparently puts Seoul in a difficult position, where it needs to prove its efforts will bear fruit.

“President Moon must balance his desire for North-South reconciliation with his policy of denuclearization,” Manning said.

Dennis Wilder, a Georgetown University assistant professor, who served as National Security Council senior director for East Asian affairs during the George W. Bush administration, suggested Moon should accept the invitation only if Pyongyang agrees to discuss denuclearization with Washington.

“My own view is that President Moon should only go if there is a strong signal from the North of willingness to engage seriously with the Trump administration,” Wilder said.

Joseph DeTrani, former U.S. special envoy for nuclear talks with North Korea, said Moon should make it clear to Kim that he wants to discuss the nuclear and missile issues at the summit. The former envoy believes Moon should use the meeting as an opportunity to push Kim to accept his predecessor’s promise to denuclearize.

Washington unmoved

The latest North Korean diplomatic overture does not appear to have discouraged Washington from pursuing its strategy of pressure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who led a U.S. delegation to the Olympic Games, told reporters that he and Moon discussed the South Korean leader’s meeting with Kim Jong Un’s sister, adding he remains confident about Seoul’s support for the pressure strategy.

“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Pence said.

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CIA Denies Being Bilked by Russian Promising Trump Info 

The CIA on Saturday categorically denied reports that it was fleeced by a mystery Russian who promised compromising information on U.S. President Donald Trump.

The secretive agency rarely issues any kind of comment, but came out to deny the report in The New York Times and a similar one in The Intercept, an online journal focusing on national security issues.

“The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false,” the Central Intelligence Agency said in a statement sent to AFP.

“The people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg,” the CIA said, referring to Times reporter Rosenberg, who wrote the story, and Risen, a former Times reporter who authored The Intercept’s article.

Both reports appeared Friday.

The president tweeted approvingly that the Times article shows a need to “drain the swamp” in Washington.

Worthy of a le Carre novel

In a story worthy of a John le Carre novel that included secret USB-drive handovers in a small Berlin bar and coded messages delivered over the National Security Agency’s Twitter account, CIA agents spent much of last year trying to buy back from the Russians hacking programs stolen from the NSA, the Times reported.

The seller, who was not identified but had suspected links to both cyber criminals and Russian intelligence, tantalized the U.S. spies with an offer of the NSA hacking tools that had been advertised for sale online by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Some of the tools, developed by the NSA to break into the computers of U.S. rivals, were used by other hackers last year to crack or infect computer systems around the world. The Times described the Americans as desperate to get the tools back.

Reached through a chain of intermediaries, the seller reportedly wanted $1 million after quickly dropping his opening demand of about $10 million.

The $100,000 was an initial payment by U.S. agents still dubious he really had what he was promising.

In its report, the Times cited U.S. and European intelligence officials, the Russian, and communications the newspaper reviewed.

The seller also repeatedly pressed U.S. agents with offers of compromising materials, or kompromat, on Trump, the Times said.

‘Off the books’

But an investigation was under way in Washington on possible links between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and the U.S. agents reportedly did not want to get involved in anything that smelled of the politics back home.

U.S. intelligence officials say that Russia interfered with the election to help elect Trump, and that it continues to use disinformation to sow confusion in the American political system.

The Intercept reported that the “off-the-books communications channel” with Russia created rifts in the CIA. The agency is led by Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo, but many of its staffers are still smarting over Trump’s repeated harsh comments about the intelligence community’s role in the Russia meddling investigation.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing the possible links between Trump’s presidential campaign and Moscow, as well as possible obstruction of justice.

Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu said in a tweet Friday that Risen’s article “suggests the CIA Director fears getting information damaging to @realDonaldTrump that is being offered by Russians.”

If that’s true, Lieu said, “the CIA Director needs to explain his actions to Congress. He took an oath to the Constitution, not to Trump.”

Trump on Saturday referred favorably to the Times article about the Russian who “sold phony secrets on ‘Trump’ to the US,” and noted the operative reportedly had drastically lowered his original price.

“I hope people are now seeing and understanding what is going on here. It is all now starting to come out — DRAIN THE SWAMP!” he tweeted, in a reference to what he sees as a need for reform.

Trump has frequently criticized the Times, which has published numerous investigative reports about him and his administration, calling it a “failing” newspaper providing “fake news.”

Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

The Times reported that, in the end, the deal with the Russian broke down last month as the Russian failed to come up with any of the sought-after NSA materials, and the Trump-related material was either already known or untrustworthy.

The Russian was told by the Americans to leave Western Europe and not return, according to the Times.

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State Department: No One Drives a Wedge Between US and South Korea

With the launch of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert dismissed concerns that U.S. efforts to counter North Korea’s “charm offensive” could create a rift with South Korea. But some analysts are expressing concern that tough talk from Vice President Mike Pence on Pyongyang could put the U.S. on a collision course with its long-time ally, South Korea. VOA diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department.

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Report: Military Probe Calls for Fewer Ground Missions in West Africa After Niger Ambush

The New York Times is reporting that a draft military investigation into the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger last year calls for the Pentagon to reduce the number of ground missions in West Africa.

Military officials with knowledge of the findings told the newspaper the investigation also concludes that commanders in the field should have less authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols. Higher-level commanders will now need to approve certain missions that carry a higher risk.

No drawdown in Libya, Somalia

The officials say U.S. troops will continue to carry out joint patrols with local military forces, but say military officials will more thoroughly vet such missions, according to the paper. The officials said missions would not be scaled back in Libya or Somalia, where U.S. troops have been working with local forces to fight Islamic State and al-Shabab militants.

The draft investigation findings have not yet been released to the public.

The Times said the military investigation describes a string of errors that led to the deaths of the Americans, including bad decision-making and a breakdown in communication.

​October ambush in Niger

Pentagon and Nigerien defense officials said Islamic State fighters ambushed their forces Oct. 4, killing four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers and a Nigerien interpreter.

In the attack, a group of 12 members of a U.S. Special Operations Task Force had accompanied 30 Nigerian forces on a reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near Tongo Tongo.

Members of the team had just completed a meeting with local leaders and were walking back to their vehicles when they were attacked, U.S. officials told VOA.

The soldiers said the meeting ran late, and some suspected the villagers were intentionally delaying their departure, one of the officials said.

About 1,300 U.S. military personnel work in the Lake Chad Basin — Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad — to help strengthen local militaries and counter Boko Haram, al-Qaida, IS and other extremist groups.

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2nd White House Aide Resigns After Accusations of Domestic Abuse

The White House confirmed late Friday that a second staff member had resigned over allegations of domestic abuse.

Spokesman Raj Shah said David Sorenson, a speechwriter for the Council on Environmental Quality, resigned Friday. Two days earlier White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter stepped down amid accusations by both his former wives that he had abused them.

Sorensen denied the abuse allegations, which were first reported Friday by The Washington Post. Sorenson’s ex-wife had told the Post that he was violent and emotionally abusive during their short marriage.

Trump on Porter

President Donald Trump said Friday that he is very sad at Porter’s resignation.

“He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. “He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, so you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

The president did not mention the former wives or their claims that Porter physically and psychologically abused them.

Security clearance concerns

The revelations about Porter have raised fresh questions about the attitude of senior White House staff toward allegations of improper behavior by employees. It has also cast a spotlight on the practice of allowing staff without security clearances to work in and around the Oval Office.

Porter had only an interim clearance while holding one of the most sensitive jobs in the White House, where he controlled the flow of information to the president. A full clearance had been held up while the FBI investigated abuse allegations by his two former wives.

Trump Friday wished his former aide well, noting that Porter had done “a very good job in the White House.”

Porter’s swift resignation followed publication in Britain’s Daily Mail of a picture of his first wife, Colbie Holderness, with a black eye allegedly suffered when Porter punched her in 2005 while the couple was on vacation in Italy.

Holderness and Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, were both quoted by the tabloid as saying Porter’s consistent abuse was the reason for their respective divorces.

​Kelly under scrutiny

The Porter matter has intensified scrutiny of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a former army general brought in to bring order to an administration that had been seen as chaotic under previous chief, Reince Priebus.

Media reports say Kelly apparently had prior knowledge of Porter’s inappropriate behavior. Critics say Kelly should have been more concerned about employees working without security clearances.

Kelly has also come under fire for appearing to defend Porter when the allegation of abuse first surfaced. He issued a statement Wednesday calling Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Kelly wrote. “He is a friend, a confidant and a trusted professional. I am proud to serve alongside him.”

Later, as the picture of Holderness with the black eye circulated on the Internet, Kelly amended his original statement, saying, “I was shocked by the new allegations released today against Rob Porter. There is no place for domestic violence in our society.”

Porter resigns

A day after Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke warmly of Porter, his departure was announced with a terse comment. 

“He was terminated yesterday and his last day was yesterday,” Shah, the deputy press secretary said Thursday. Shah characterized the departure as a resignation, however, rather than a firing.

Porter, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard-educated lawyer, played an important role in deciding which articles and policy proposals were given to the president for his review.

Porter had a hand in writing Trump’s recent State of the Union address, and news photos and videos often showed images of him with other members of the White House inner circle. Several news agencies have reported that he is currently romantically linked with another close Trump aide, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

Porter issued a statement Wednesday denying the accusations.

“These outrageous allegations are simply false,” he said. “I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described. I have been transparent and truthful about these vile claims, but I will not further engage publicly with a coordinated smear campaign.”

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Congress Reaches Budget Compromise, But No Deal Yet on ‘Dreamers’

The U.S. Congress has approved spending bill and two year budget agreement which has been signed by President Donald Trump, ending a brief government shutdown. The deal ended weeks of uncertainty as well as Democratic hopes of linking passage of the budget with a solution for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. VOA congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson reports on the immigration fight ahead on Capitol Hill.

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Trump Signs Budget Agreement, Ending US Government Shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a sweeping bipartisan budget bill, ending a brief government shutdown and adding hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, disaster aid and the military.

Trump signed the measure without fanfare after it received final congressional approval in the early hours of Friday morning.

White House officials said the lack of a signing ceremony indicated Trump’s displeasure with the last-minute additions that will further add to the government’s ballooning deficit. In two subsequent morning tweets, he took aim at Democrats, who had demanded more domestic spending in return for the votes needed to win enough bipartisan support to pass the deal.

The House voted in the wee hours of the morning, 240-186, to approve the measure, which funds the government through March 23. Hours earlier, the Senate had voted 71-28 in favor.

The deal gives appropriations committees in both houses of Congress time to craft a detailed spending plan that will fund the government through September of 2019.

Several lawmakers on the left and right opposed the bill, including conservative Republicans who objected to the large spending increases. Progressive Democrats protested the omission of language that would end the threat of deportation for more than one million young undocumented immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States as children.

Trump ordered an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year. Participants face deportation when the program expires March 5 unless Congress takes action.

Trump, in his third tweet of the day, applauded the exclusion of the Dreamers, or recipients of the DACA provision, from the spending bill. “Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!” he wrote.

Republican and Democratic legislative leaders praised the deal.

“This is a great victory for our men and women in uniform. Republicans and Democrats joined together to finally give our troops the resources and our generals the certainty to plan for the future,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who had opposed earlier versions of the bill that cut domestic and disaster relief spending, also claimed victory.

“What makes Democrats proudest of this bill is that after a decade of cuts to programs that help the middle class, we have a dramatic reversal,” Schumer said. “Funding for education, infrastructure, fighting drug abuse, and medical research will all, for the first time in years, get very significant increases, and we have placed Washington on a path to deliver more help to the middle class in the future.”

Dreamers’ plight

While Schumer and the Democrats yielded on the DACA issue, Republican leaders gave assurances that overhauling America’s immigration system remains high on their agenda.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised to start Senate floor debate on immigration reform, including a fix for DACA recipients, as soon as spending issues are resolved.

Speaker Ryan gave a similar assurance Thursday, saying, “To anyone who doubts my commitment to solve this problem and bring up a DACA and immigration reform bill, do not. We will bring a solution to the floor, one that the president will sign.”

A single Republican senator had held up passage of the budget bill Thursday, forcing the brief government shutdown, to underscore his fear that increasing spending by hundreds of billions of dollars would explode America’s already rising federal deficit and add to the nation’s more than $20 trillion national debt.

“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said in a fiery floor speech that went on for hours. “I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, How come you were against President [Barack] Obama’s deficits and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'”

Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

Watch related video by VOA’s Katherine Gypson:


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Pence in Pyeongchang for Olympics Opening Ceremonies

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday to attend the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Earlier Friday, Pence traveled to the South Korean Navy’s 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, to visit a memorial for the South Korean warship Cheonan, which was sunk by an explosion blamed on the North. Nearly 50 sailors aboard the Cheonan were killed.

“Our objective here today is to stand with our allies. But is also to stand up for the truth. And to recognize that whatever images may emerge against the powerful backdrop and idealism of the Olympics, North Korea has to accept change,” Pence told reporters at the naval base before heading to the Olympic Games venue.

“They have to abandon their nuclear ambitions. They have to end the day of provocation and menacing. And frankly they have to end an appalling record of human rights that you heard first-hand today, the world community,” he added.

The vice president also met with North Korean defectors while in Pyeongtaek.

At the Olympics

U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that the vice president might meet a North Korean official at the Olympics. North Korean state media said Thursday there was no intention on the North Korean side for such talks to take place.

Pence said his team had not requested a meeting, but that if it did happen, he would continue his message that North Korea must entirely abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile efforts and will remain under pressure until it does so.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said South Korea sees hosting the Olympics as a way to improve diplomatic relations with North Korea. He has referred to the games as the “Olympic Games of peace.”

Ahead of the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Pence, Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended a reception for about 200 dignitaries hosted by the South Korean president.

According to the vice president’s office, Pence stopped by many tables at the reception, “but did not come across the North Korea delegation.”

Vow to South Korea

On Thursday, Pence said in a meeting with Moon that Washington would “bring maximum pressure to bear on North Korea” until they abandon their nuclear weapons program.

Meeting with Moon at the Blue House in Seoul, Pence reaffirmed to longtime ally South Korea the U.S. commitment to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea in order to achieve the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

On Thursday, while in Japan, Pence stopped at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, where he gave a pointed speech against North Korea.

He said the United States will act with “vigilance and resolve” in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile threats, and reiterated the Trump administration’s warning that while its seeks peace, “all options are on the table.”

About 54,000 personnel are stationed at the U.S. base. Pence toured the facility and met with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan. He also was briefed on the capabilities of the base if “diplomacy fails.”

Pence said North Korea has repeatedly responded to overtures from the world with broken promises and provocations. He highlighted his earlier announcement that the United States would continue to intensify what he called a “maximum pressure campaign” and keep it in place until North Korea abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“We’re standing in a country that has literally seen ballistic missiles overfly their land twice in a single month. And they’ve seen multiple ballistic missiles land within their economic zone in the Sea of Japan,” Pence later told reporters.

“American forces, the Self-Defense Forces of Japan are ready for any eventuality. And we will continue to make it clear to all parties that the United States and our allies in this region stand ready at a moment’s notice to defend our people and defend our way of life,” he added.

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