US Vice President Mike Pence has stared across the demilitarised border between North and South Korea, a day after North Korea’s failed missile launch, reiterating that the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang is over.
Pence is on the first stop of a four-nation Asia tour intended to show America’s allies, and remind its adversaries, that the Trump administration is not turning its back on the increasingly volatile region.
The demilitarised zone is a heavily mined, four-km-wide strip of land lined with barbed wire running across the Korean peninsula, with soldiers on both sides in a continual eyeball-to-eyeball standoff.
Pence, whose father served in the 1950-53 Korean War, said on Monday the US would stand by its “iron-clad alliance” with South Korea and was seeking peace through strength.
“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” he told reporters as tinny propaganda music floated across from the North Korean side.
He said US President Donald Trump has made clear he won’t talk about specific military tactics.
“There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over,” Pence said.
The US, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea’s latest failed ballistic missile test, Trump’s national security adviser said on Sunday, citing what he called an international consensus to act.
HR McMaster indicated that Trump was not considering military action for now, even as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group was heading for the region.
“It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” programme. “We are working together with our allies and partners and with the Chinese leadership to develop a range of options.
“There is an international consensus now, including the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just cannot continue,” McMaster said.
The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, Reuters reported last week, citing US officials.
While Trump has employed tough rhetoric in response to North Korea’s recent missile tests, the new US president’s options appear limited in dealing with a challenge that has vexed his Oval Office predecessors.
Most options fall into four categories: economic sanctions, covert action, diplomatic negotiations and military force.
Pence landed in South Korea hours after the North’s failed missile launch. His visit came a day after North Korea held a military parade in its capital, Pyongyang, marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of founding father Kim Il Sung.