In South Korea, Pence warns North not to test Trump's resolve

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) arrives at army base Camp Bonifas after a failed North Korean missile test, April 17, 2017
JUNG Yeon-Je (AFP)
US vice president set to begin 10-day visit to Asia with stay in Seoul amid tensions over Pyongyang's weapons

United States Vice President Mike Pence has warned North Korea that it would do well not to test Trump's resolve "or the strength of our military forces," amid soaring tensions over Pyongyang's missile and nuclear ambitions.

Speaking in Seoul following a visit to the heavily militarized border between the two Koreas, Pence said that recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan are a clear demonstration of the "strength and resolve of our new president."

"We will defeat any attack and we will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response," Pence said, adding that when it came to North Korea "all options are on the table."

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have soared in recent weeks, as a series of North Korean weapons tests have wrought ever-more bellicose warnings from Donald Trump's administration.

The US is reportedly considering a preemptive strike on North Korea, amid speculation the hermit nation is preparing a sixth nuclear test. Responding to those reports, Pence said that Washington would "closely consult" with Seoul "as we make decisions moving forward."

Pence declared that the era of US "strategic patience" in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.

North Korea "answered our overtures with wilful deception, broken promises and nuclear and missile tests", he said.

JUNG Yeon-Je (AFP)

Meanwhile, the South Korea's acting president said following talks with Pence that the two countries have agreed on the early deployment of a controversial US missile defense system in the region.

"We have agreed to further strengthen the readiness posture of ROK-US alliance that matches the threats posed by North Korea through a swift deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense)," said Hwang Kyo-Ahn at a joint conference with Pence.

Pence, for his part, expressed that the US 'troubled' by China's retaliation against South Korea over the THAAD deployment.

Pence urged the international community to join US and regional demands for an end to the North's nuclear and ballistic missile program.

"It is heartening to see China commit to these actions. But the United States is troubled by China's economic retaliation against South Korea for taking appropriate steps to defend itself," he said, referring to the US THAAD missile defence system.

Washington wants to achieve security "through peaceable means, through negotiations. But all options are on the table as we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of South Korea," he said at the border village of Panmunjom.

"The message of the people of the United States of America is that we seek peace, but America has always sought peace through strength and my message here today standing with US forces Korea, standing with courageous soldiers from the Republic of Korea is a message of resolve," said the vice president.

Ben Listerman (DoD/AFP/File)

Earlier, as Pence visited the nearby Camp Bonifas, a US-led United Nations command post, he said: "It is particularly humbling for me to be here. My father served in the Korean war with the US Army, and on the way here we actually saw some of the terrain my father fought alongside Korean forces to help earn your freedom. We are grateful to all of those who each and every day stand in the gap for freedom here at the DMZ."

The US president has indicated he will not allow North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the western United States.

A top White House foreign policy adviser on Sunday became the latest Trump official to warn that while diplomatic pressure was preferable, US military action is very much on the table.

"We have a wide array of tools at disposal for the president should he choose to use them," the official said.

Ed JONES (AFP)

Also Sunday, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said an international consensus that includes China has now emerged that North Korea's "threatening behavior" cannot go on.

McMaster said Trump has made clear he will not allow the nuclear-armed Pyongyang regime to put the US and its regional allies under threat.

The consensus including China is "that this problem is coming to a head. And so it's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully," McMaster said.

See also:

- Exclusive: South Korea warns North could force it to develop nuclear weapon

- Between Seoul, Jerusalem, Pyongyang, and Tehran - Editor's Notebook

- Between reality and virtuality: from Hamas tunnels to North Korea's ones

(Staff with AFP)

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