Pence warns North Korea 'era of patience is over'

2017-04-17 18:29
US Vice President Mike Pence. (Lee Jin-Man, AP)

US Vice President Mike Pence. (Lee Jin-Man, AP)

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Panmunjom - In a trip full of Cold War symbolism, US Vice President Mike Pence travelled to the tense zone dividing North and South Korea and warned Pyongyang that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, "the era of strategic patience is over."

The unannounced visit on Monday at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia was a US show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. As the brown bomber jacket-clad vice president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.

Ballistic missiles

Pence told reporters near the Demilitarized Zone that President Donald Trump was hopeful China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its weapons programme, a day after the North's failed missile test launch. But Pence expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the regime to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the vice president said a period of patience had followed.

"But the era of strategic patience is over," he declared. "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."

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking to reporters on Monday evening, said he hopes "there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the US will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign."

Meanwhile, China made a plea for a return to negotiations. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said tensions need to be eased on the Korean Peninsula to bring the escalating dispute there to a peaceful resolution. Lu said Beijing wants to resume the multi-party negotiations that ended in stalemate in 2009 and suggested that the US plans to deploy a missile defence system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace. But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless".

"We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the international community, he said, urging China and Russia to play more constructive roles on the issue.

Military installation

Pence later reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that "all options are on the table" to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with "an overwhelming and effective response." He said the American commitment to South Korea was "iron-clad and immutable".

Noting Trump's recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Pence said, "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve," or the US armed forces in the region.

The vice president earlier visited a military installation near the DMZ, Camp Bonifas, for a briefing with military leaders at the joint US-South Korean installation, which is just outside the 4km DMZ.

Read more on:    mike pence  |  north korea  |  south korea  |  us  |  russia  |  japan

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