US urges LatAm powers to isolate N.Korea

Us Vice President Mike Pence, on a visit to Chile, is urging Latin American countries to cut ties with North Korea

US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called on Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American powers to break off economic and diplomatic ties with North Korea over Pyongyang's missile threats.

"We strongly urge Chile today and we urge Brazil and Mexico and Peru to break all diplomatic and commercial ties to North Korea," Pence told a press conference alongside Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

"We would especially welcome Chile reclassifying exports of Chilean wine... as a luxury good under current US sanctions to prevent North Korean from obtaining these commodities and converting them into hard currency that support the regime."

Chile's Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz later responded: "We respect the United States' request, but Chile will maintain its relations. They are distant relations because we have strictly applied all the sanctions decreed by the (UN) Security Council" against North Korea.

In 2015 North Korea imported $65,000 worth of Chilean wine, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a US-based trade monitor.

Mexico sold it $45 million of oil and Peru exported $22 million of copper to North Korea that year, the observatory says.

Bachelet called on parties "to renew all the diplomatic efforts and conversations... to the North, South Korea, China, the Russian Federation -- in order to have a Korean peninsula without nuclear weapons."

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un on Tuesday backed off from a threat to fire missiles towards the US territory of Guam.

Pence was visiting Chile on the third stop of a tour of Latin American countries to boost trade ties and rally them over the crisis in Venezuela.

He said he had decided "to end our trip a little bit early tomorrow after we stop in Panama" on the last leg of the trip.

Pence may be needed back home.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump was in the eye of a political storm Wednesday after his remarks on unrest at rallies by white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville.

The White House said Trump and Pence will meet Friday with his national security team at Camp David, as he mulls whether or not to send more American troops to war-ravaged Afghanistan.