Vice President Pence warned North Korea on Monday that the “era of strategic patience is over” and that all options are on the table if President Kim Jong Un continues to threaten the region with his missile and nuclear testing programs.
Pence, kicking off a 10-day Asian tour in Seoul, spoke at a joint news conference with South Korean acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn one day after North Korea’s latest failed missile test. Pence pointed to recent U.S. military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan as proof of President Trump’s resolve.
“North Korea will do well not to test his resolve or (the) strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Pence said. “North Korea answered our overtures (for denuclearization) with willful deception, broken promises, and nuclear and missile tests.”
Earlier in the day, visited a military base near the Demilitarized Zone the separates the two Koreas. A joint U.S.-South Korean military camp sits just outside the tense strip of land. Pence’s late father, Edward, fought in the Korean War more than 60 years ago.
“On the way here, we actually saw some of the terrain my father fought on alongside Korean forces to help earn your freedom,” Pence said.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he warned Washington to refrain from taking unilateral military action against North Korea, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. Lavrov noted that “if the U.S. vice president meant that Washington could unilaterally use military force, then it is a risky road.”
Lavrov said Russia considers the North Korea missile testing unacceptable, but not a signal for other nations to “violate international law in response and use military force.”
On Sunday, Pence discussed that day’s missile test, saying the “provocation” was a reminder of the dangers posed by North Korea in the region. The medium-range missile “blew up almost immediately,” the U.S. military said.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Sunday on This Week, “There’s an international consensus now — including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership — that this is a situation that just can’t continue.”
China is North Korea’s closest ally, and Trump has expressed irritation that the North’s primary trading partner has failed to curb Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and missile technology. On Sunday, Trump made a passing reference to North Korea in a tweet about China.
“Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem?” Trump tweeted. “We will see what happens!”
Trump has sent an armada of ships and submarines to the area, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The U.S. and South Korea also have been conducting their annual joint military exercises, a massive operation involving hundreds of thousands of troops. The exercises have drawn wrath from Kim. North Korea’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Friday warning that thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.”
Kim has attempted to show his own military strength in recent days, with mixed results. The failed launch came a day after tens of thousands of North Korean soldiers goose-stepped in a parade through the capital of Pyongyang that featured missiles and other hardware.