WASHINGTON • US Vice-President Mike Pence will travel to South Korea tomorrow in what his aides say is a sign of US commitment to its ally in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear programme.
Mr Pence's Seoul stop kicks off a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia - his first as Vice-President - and comes amid concerns that Pyongyang could conduct its sixth nuclear test as early as today, when it marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung.
Mr Pence plans to celebrate Easter with US and Korean troops tomorrow before talks on Monday with Acting President Hwang Kyo Ahn.
"We are going to consult with the Republic of Korea on North Korea's efforts to advance its ballistic missile and its nuclear programme," a White House foreign policy adviser told reporters, previewing Mr Pence's trip.
The White House has contingency plans for the trip should it coincide with another North Korean nuclear test by its leader Kim Jong Un, the adviser said.
"Unfortunately, it is not a new surprise for us... With the regime, it is not a matter of if - it is when. We are well prepared to counter that," the adviser said.
Mr Pence travels to Japan on Tuesday, where he will be meeting US troops and touring Nimitz-class USS Ronald Reagan, whose home port is in Yokosuka.
The Vice-President expects to talk about the "belligerence" of North Korea at his stops in Tokyo, Jakarta and Sydney, the White House adviser said.