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US Vice-President urges Latin America to isolate North Korea

Mike pence

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has urged Latin American countries including Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Mexico to further isolate North Korea, stressing that  all options are on the table with regards to Pyongyang, Reuters reported. 

"The U.S. places great importance on the ongoing diplomatic isolation of the Kim regime and we strongly urge Chile today, and we urge Brazil, Mexico, and Peru to break all diplomatic and commercial ties to North Korea," Pence said during a visit to Chile in a joint press conference with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea last week it would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the United States, prompting North Korea to say it was considering plans to fire missiles toward the Pacific island of Guam. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later delayed the decision to fire the missiles, a move Trump praised earlier on Wednesday.

Trade between Latin American countries and North Korea is not significant.

Brazil, the region's largest economy, had just $2.1 million worth of exports - mainly coffee, meat, tobacco and leather - and $8.7 million of imports with North Korea in 2016, according to government figures. North Korea has an embassy in Brasilia and Brazil opened an embassy in Pyongyang in 2009.

"Brazil follows the decisions of multilateral organizations," a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said when asked if Brasilia would break off trade and diplomatic ties.

Peru had not been directly asked by the United States to break ties with North Korea and was not currently planning any action, a government source said.

Lima, which has condemned North Korea's missile tests in the past, asked it to reduce its embassy personnel a couple of months ago over an unrelated matter, said the source.

Chile has a joint arrangement of diplomatic relations with North Korea and China but has not presented credentials for four years, according to Pence.

"I've requested of Bachelet today to terminate that relationship," he said.

Pence said he would "especially welcome" Chile reclassifying its wine exports as a luxury good, which would bring it under the umbrella of United Nations sanctions against the isolated country. Chile is the world's leading wine exporter outside of Europe.

Neighboring Argentina, Latin America's no.3 economy, said it has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The leftist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, meanwhile, have remained largely quiet on the current standoff, although the North Korean ambassador to Venezuela recently said the two countries were interested in boosting relations.

Pence said that there were recent glimmers of hope on the North Korea situation.

"Our administration has been marshalling the support of nations around the world, and as the President acknowledged this morning, we are beginning to see progress in dealing with North Korea's provocations," he said.

Pence also said Latin America "should do more" on Venezuela, where over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April. He reiterated recent comments that the United States is keen to work together with other countries in Latin America "to achieve a peaceable solution".

Trump's comments last week that a "military option" was on the table for Venezuela caused shockwaves through the region.

"Chile will not support coups or military intervention," said Bachelet at the press conference.
"In the case of sanctions, we will support any measures adopted by the UN Security Council."

Pence is on his third stop of a Latin America tour that also included Argentina and Colombia. He said he would end the trip "a little bit early" on Thursday after visiting Panama.