In Seoul, US Vice President Pence makes geopolitics personal

Andrew Cummings
April 17, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the Korean border Monday amid heightened tensions in the region.

Pence said North Korea's "provocation" was another reminder of the risks that USA and South Korean service members face every day "in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world".

Pence, who has called the North's failed missile test a day earlier "a provocation", said the USA and its allies will achieve its objectives through "peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary" to protect South Korea and stabilize the region.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson exchanged views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula by phone on Sunday, China's foreign ministry said, without giving more details.

One former high-ranking intelligence official briefed on the program said the effort was stymied by North Korea's utter secrecy and extreme isolation of its communications systems. He also said that China would maintain communication and co-ordination regarding the on-going situation with the U.S.

Washington sees North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as a threat to world security and to its Asian allies, Japan and South Korea. "We will see what happens!"

"This latest missile test just fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime", McMaster said.

Pence arrived at Camp Bonifas in the morning for a briefing with military leaders.

"It's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully", he said.

After Trump's latest military strikes, North Korea has heightened its warmongering and vowed to continue its nuclear tests.

The White House believes that Sunday's test involved a medium-range ballistic missile that failed within 4-5 seconds after launch, and that it did not involve an intercontinental ballistic missile, the foreign policy adviser said.

Trump for his part, has suggested in recent days that the US will take a tougher stance against North Korea, telling reporters last week: "North Korea is a problem. Our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger".

Presently, China finds itself in the role of reluctant arbitrator amidst all these happenings as the Xi-Trump meeting concluded only recently, the important THAAD issue could not be discussed sufficiently as the Syria strikes took place nearly immediately. It has repeatedly called for talks while appearing increasingly frustrated with the North. China then began to impose sanctions against North Korea.

Blue huts straddle the border, where tense negotiations have been held between the North, South and the United States since armistice. China is North Korea's only major ally.

As for the vice president himself, this first trip to South Korea is not just a big responsibility at a critical time - it is also an emotional trip personally for him.

The North has a habit of test-firing missiles to mark major dates such as Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung, or as gestures of defiance when top U.S. officials visit the region.

Other reports by iNewsToday