Vice President Mike Pence visited the most militarized area in the world, the Demilitarized Zone that constitutes the border between North Korea and South Korea, to issue a firm warning to authoritarian leader Kim Jong-un and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that the U.S. and its allies are losing patience with North Korea’s insistence on pursuing its nuclear weapons program in defiance of international law.
In a speech that reiterated the words of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his swing through Asia in March, Pence further warned that North Korea should not test President Donald Trump’s resolve on putting an end to what is seen as North Korea’s constant destabilization of the region.
“The era of strategic patience is over,” Pence said, according to the Los Angeles Times, referring to President Barack Obama’s non-confrontational approach to North Korea during his two terms in office.
It should be noted that the DPRK’s push to create and then expand its nuclear weapons program has been a political thorn in the side of the last three presidents, all of whom decided that “strategic patience” would be the United States’ response to the continued build-up.
Pence continued, “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.”
Pence’s words came just a day after North Korea tested yet another ballistic missile, launching it from its east coast, according to NPR. However, the missile apparently malfunctioned, exploding nearly immediately after launch, the U.S. Pacific Command said in an email statement.
The failed test, the sixth missile launch this year, occurred the day after the 105th birthday celebration of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the DPRK. North Korea’s military had displayed in a parade review what appeared to be long-range and submarine-based missiles.
The vice president, who spent the Easter holiday in South Korea where 28,000 American troops are stationed, mentioned the recent bombings in Syria and Afghanistan carried out by U.S. military forces, suggesting that the Trump administration only had so much patience and was entirely willing to use military options if North Korea continued with what he referred to as provocations.
“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve — or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.”
Pence also declared America’s support of South Korea in the face of any potential North Korean aggression, stating, “We will defeat any attack, and we will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response.”
The vice president’s hardline rhetoric is just the latest by the Trump administration in an effort to emphasize a policy where North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program. In March, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also reaffirmed America’s commitment to its allies in the region, stating that the United States had embarked on a “new approach” when dealing with Kim Jong-un and the DPRK, an approach that left little doubt that the Trump administration claims to be willing to risk military measures to secure North Korea’s cooperation.
For its part, North Korea has matched the words of American officials with promises of defensive retaliation, including nuclear war, even going so far as to warn it could institute preemptive nuclear strikes against its adversaries.
The exchange of heated rhetoric and war-like posturing has intensified since Donald Trump was elected in January. Experts have predicted that the DPRK are readying another nuclear weapons test, an act that would constitute yet another violation of United Nations’ resolutions.
Still, Vice President Pence left room for a peaceful end to what has become a dangerous game of nuclear brinksmanship between the U.S. and North Korea, stating during a joint news conference later Monday with South Korean President Hwang Kyo-Ahn in Seoul (per NPR), “Since 1992, the United States and our allies have stood together for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Pence said at a joint news conference with acting “We hope to achieve this objective through peaceable means. But all options are on the table.”
But the DPRK is thus far standing behind its own hardline stance. North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Han Song Ryol, told the Associated Press on April 13 that the Kim Jong-un regime was ready for war, even a nuclear war that might be initiated from Pyongyang, saying, “If the U.S. comes with reckless military maneuvers then we will confront it with the DPRK’s pre-emptive strike. We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. pre-emptive strike.”
[Featured Image by Lee Jin-man/AP Images]