Pence Warns N. Korea: Don’t Test US Resolve

US Vice President Mike Pence warned Pyongyang that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, “the era of strategic patience is over”
North Korean soldiers look at the south side during Mike Pence’s visit.North Korean soldiers look at the south side during Mike Pence’s visit.

Viewing his adversaries in the distance, US Vice President Mike Pence traveled to the tense zone dividing North and South Korea and warned Pyongyang that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, “the era of strategic patience is over”.

Pence made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a US show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire.

As the brown bomber jacket-clad vice president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor, AP reported.

Pence told reporters near the DMZ that US President Donald Trump was hopeful that China would use its “extraordinary levers” to pressure the North to abandon its weapons program, a day after the North’s failed missile launch. But Pence expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the regime to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the vice president said a period of patience had followed.

  Missile Testing “Unacceptable”

“But the era of strategic patience is over,” Pence declared. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

Later Monday, Pence said in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that the United States’ commitment to its ally is “iron-clad and immutable”.

Pence reiterated that “all options are on the table” to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with “an overwhelming and effective response”.

Pointing to Trump’s recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Pence said, “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve,” or the US armed forces in the region.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session on Monday, said diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace, but dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless.

“We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue” with the international community, he added, urging China and Russia to play more constructive roles on the issue.

Pence’s visit, full of Cold War symbolism, came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula. While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the specter of a potential test and an escalated US response has trailed Pence as he undertakes his Asian tour.

Trump wrote on Sunday on Twitter that China was working with the United States on “the North Korea problem”. His national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said the US would rely on its allies as well as Chinese leadership to resolve the issues with North Korea.

Pence told reporters that the North Korean people and military “should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies”, calling the alliance “iron-clad”. He said the US and its allies would deal with the situation “through peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary”.

After a two-month policy review, the Trump administration settled on a policy dubbed “maximum pressure and engagement”, US officials said on Friday. The administration’s immediate emphasis, they said, was to put increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of Beijing.

The officials were not authorized to speak publicly on the results of the policy review and requested anonymity.

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