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Pence promises ’toughest and most aggressive’ sanctions against North Korea

Pence promises ’toughest and most aggressive’ sanctions against North Korea
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence on Wednesday announced what he claimed will be the Trump administration's most grueling round of economic sanctions against North Korea.

"I’m announcing today that the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever," Pence said during a news conference in Japan, standing alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"We will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all."

It's unclear what the latest sanctions will entail. The penalties have not yet been officially announced by the Treasury Department.

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The vice president's comments came just days before the Winter Olympics kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Pence is leading the U.S. delegation to the games' opening ceremony on Friday. 

But Pence's five-day Asian trip has also been billed as an opportunity to put pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Pence latest remarks came a day after he refused to rule out the possibility of a meeting with North Korean officials during his trip. 

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meetings," Pence told reporters during a refueling stop in Alaska on Tuesday. "But we’ll see what happens." 

Similarly, Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser Haley’s exit sends shockwaves through Washington Turkey-Russia Idlib agreement: A lesson for the US MORE also left open the possibility of a meeting between Pence and North Korean officials.

But the vice president did not pull any punches against North Korea on Wednesday, touting the Trump administration's efforts to pressure Pyongyang to give up its weapons programs and vowing to ramp up that campaign.

"Our administration redesignated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror," Pence said. "Together with Japan, and all our allies, let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization."