warns North Korea of U.S. resolve shown
in Syria, Afghan strikes
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North
Korea on notice on Monday, warning that
recent U.S. military strikes in Syria and
Afghanistan showed the resolve of President
Donald Trump should not be tested.
Pence and South Korean acting president
Hwang Kyo-ahn, speaking after a failed
missile test by North Korea and a huge
display of missiles in Pyongyang, said they
would move ahead with the early deployment
to South Korea of the U.S. THAAD missile-defence
system, in spite of Chinese objections.
Pence was on the first stop of a four-nation
Asia tour intended to show that the Trump
administration is not turning its back on
the increasingly volatile region.
"Just in the past two weeks, the world
witnessed the strength and resolve of our
new president in actions taken in Syria and
Afghanistan," Pence said in an appearance
"North Korea would do well not to test
his resolve or the strength of the armed
forces of the United States in this region,"
The U.S. Navy this month struck a Syrian
airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles after a
chemical weapons attack. On Thursday, the
U.S. military dropped "the mother of all
bombs", the largest non-nuclear device it
has ever unleashed in combat, on caves and
tunnels used by Islamic State in
Korean tensions have escalated following
repeated North Korean missile tests and
concerns that Pyongyang may soon conduct a
sixth nuclear bomb test in defiance of U.N.
Pence, whose father served in the 1950-53
Korean War, visited the North-South border
on Monday and said Washington would stand by
its "iron-clad alliance" with South Korea.
"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 of the so-called
demilitarized zone (DMZ).
At a White House Easter celebration, Trump
was asked by a reporter if he had a message
for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and
replied: “Gotta behave.”
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands next to
his daughter looking toward the north through a
pair of binocular from an observation post
inside the demilitarized zone separating the two
Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, April 17, 2017.
However in spite of the words, U.S.
officials say the Trump administration is
focusing on tougher economic sanctions in
response to North Korea.
The United States worries about North
Korea's efforts to develop a nuclear-topped
missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.
Trump's national security adviser, H.R.
McMaster, said on Sunday that the United
States, its allies and China were working on
a range of responses to North Korea's latest
missile test, citing what he called an
international consensus to act.
McMaster indicated Trump was not considering
military action for now, despite the sending
to Korean waters of a carrier strike group
led by the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson.
U.S. officials say tougher sanctions could
include an oil embargo, a global ban on
North Korea's airline, intercepting cargo
ships and punishing Chinese banks doing
business with Pyongyang.
NO 'RED LINES'
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said China
had taken some "very helpful" steps,
although it remained to be seen how
effective these would be.
Spicer, asked if Trump had a "red line" on
North Korea, said the president did not
believe these worked.
Trump himself, when asked if he was
considering military action, told Fox News
Channel that he didn't want to "telegraph"
his plans like the previous administration.
"We’ll see what happens. I hope things work
out well, but they’ve been talking with this
gentleman for a long time," he said.
Senior North Korean officials on Monday
reiterated recent warnings that the
situation was "nearing the brink of war”.
Kim Song Gyong, director general of the
European Department of the Foreign Ministry
in Pyongyang, told Reuters that if
Washington made "the slightest movement" to
make a nuclear strike on North Korea,
Pyongyang would strike first and "destroy
the aggressors without any mercy.”
Kim went on to clarify that the approach
of the carrier strike force would not be
considered enough to constitute “the
North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Han
Song-Ryol told the BBC that missiles would
continue to be tested on "a weekly, monthly
and yearly basis."
Pence is expected to discuss Korean tensions
with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on
Tuesday when he travels to Tokyo for
economic talks with Finance Minister Taro
Aso. He will also visit Jakarta and Sydney.
China has appeared increasingly frustrated
with its North Korean neighbor and ally,
speaking out against its weapons tests and
supporting U.N. sanctions, while repeatedly
calling for talks.
Susan Thornton, acting U.S. assistant
secretary of state for East Asia, said
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and China's
top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi,
agreed in a phone call on Sunday on the need
for strict enforcement of U.N. resolutions
and for international action to press
Pyongyang "to cease provocative actions and
recommit to peaceful denuclearization.”
Thornton said any new North Korean nuclear
test "would draw a pretty significant
"We’re definitely not seeking conflict or
regime change,:" she said. "But we are
committed to defending our people and our
allies should it be necessary.”
China banned imports of North Korean coal,
the country's most important export in
February and Chinese media has raised the
possibility of restricting oil shipments to
However, Beijing says the crisis is one
between the United States and North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang
said the situation was "highly sensitive,
complicated and high risk" and all sides
should "avoid taking provocative actions".