US Vice-President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice on Monday, warning that recent US strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed that the resolve of President Donald Trump should not be tested.
Pence and South Korean acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn, speaking a day after a failed missile test by the North and two days after a huge display of missiles in Pyongyang, also said they would strengthen anti-North Korea defences by moving ahead with the early deployment of the Thaad missile-defence system.
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 was 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 a joint appearance with Hwang.
“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 said.
The US Navy this month struck a Syrian airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles after a chemical weapons attack. North Korea’s KCNA news agency on Monday carried a letter from leader Kim Jong Un to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad marking the 70th anniversary of Syria’s independence.
“I express again a strong support and alliance to the Syrian government and its people for its work of justice, condemning the United States’ recent violent invasive act against your country,” Kim said.
On a visit to the border between North and South Korea earlier in the day, Pence, whose father served in the 1950-53 Korean War, said the United States 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 demilitarised zone (DMZ).
“There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.”
Meanwhile, Shinzo Abe on Monday urged North Korea to refrain from taking further provocative actions, comply with UN resolutions and abandon its nuclear missile development. Abe, speaking to parliament, said that he would exchange views on North Korea with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they hold a summit meeting later this month.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing the situation on the Korean peninsula was “highly sensitive, complicated and high risk”, adding all sides should “avoid taking provocative actions that pour oil on the fire”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow could not accept North Korea’s “reckless nuclear actions” but the US should not take unilateral action against it.
Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, indicated on Sunday that Trump was not considering military action against North Korea for now, even as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group was heading for the region.
China says the crisis is between the United States and North Korea. Lu said China efforts to help achieve denuclearisation were clear, adding: “China is not the initiator of the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.”