At the beginning of 10-day visit to Asia, Mike Pence delivered remarks that were the latest suggestion the US would do anything to force Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programme. In a symbolic move, he made his comments at the military demarcation line that marks the border between South Korea and its northern neighbour.
A day after North Korea launched its latest test missile, an experiment that ultimately fizzled out, Mr Pence said the US was hopeful China would use its “extraordinary levers” to persuade the North to give up its nuclear arms.
“But the era of strategic patience is over,” he said. “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.
He added: “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.”
The Associated Press said that as Mr Pence was briefed by US and South Korean military officers, two North Korean soldiers watched from nearby and one took multiple photographs of him.
In Washington, Mr Trump, at the traditional Easter Egg Roll at the White House, was asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He replied: “Gotta behave.”
Mr Pence’s comments followed a visit from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who last month visited the border area and said that pre-emptive military action was “on the table”.
In turn, North Korea has warned the US not to take such provocative action and said it is “ready to hit back with nuclear attacks”. Last week, North Korea marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding president, Kim Il-sung with a huge parade in Pyongyang.
China, which has for many years been considered North Korea’s only significant ally, has called for a peaceful solution to the escalation of words and threats.
China wants to resume the multi-party negotiations, that ended in stalemate in 2009, to quell the North’s nuclear programme, and has suggested that US plans to deploy a missile defence system in South Korea were damaging its relations with China.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, told reporters on Monday he hoped “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”.
Mr Pence later issued a joint statement with South Korea’s acting leader, 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”.
The Vice President said the American commitment to South Korea is “iron-clad and immutable”.