Mike Pence
Washington will soon unveil its "toughest and most aggressive sanctions" against North Korea, said US Vice President Mike Pence Reuters

Washington will soon unveil its "toughest and most aggressive sanctions" against North Korea, according to US Vice President Mike Pence.

He was speaking in Tokyo on Wednesday (7 February), adding that the US President Donald Trump's administration stood "shoulder to shoulder" with Japan and other allies as it seeks to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons development programme.

Pence was speaking as he was about to begin talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which are expected to focus on how North Korea's nuclear testing programme has destabilised the East Asian region.

He said: "I'm announcing today that the United States will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea.

"Let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps towards complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation."

Trump's administration has criticised the policy of previous US Presidents towards North Korea and has argued strongly that the global community should significantly tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.

However, North Korea's biggest backer, China, has failed to agree to an oil embargo that would hurt the economy of Kim Jong-un.

Pyongyang has tested three nuclear missiles over the last 12 months, which has left most experts agreeing it is close to developing weapons sophisticated enough to hit the US – if it has not done so already.

North Korea has fired test missiles that have landed provocatively in the Sea of Japan. The Japanese authorities have organised a number of nuclear strike drills for its citizens as tensions rise in the region.

Pence said: "We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Japan, the people of South Korea and our allies and partners across the region until we achieve the global objective of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

The Vice President visited a Japanese Patriot PAC-3 missile battery, Japan's last line of defence against any possible North Korean missile strike.

Pence is in Tokyo on his way to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but added that North Korea's joint delegation with South Korea would not be allowed to "hijack" the games with its "propaganda".

He said: "We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games. We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region."