Pence Pledges Vigilance, Resolve Against North Korea Threats

Pence Pledges Vigilance, Resolve Against North Korea Threats
Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday the United States will act with "vigilance and resolve" in the face of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile threats, and reiterated the Trump administration's warning that while it seeks peace, "all options are on the table."

He spoke to some of the 54,000 personnel at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo after touring the facility and meeting with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, to be briefed on the capabilities of the base if "diplomacy fails."

Pence said North Korea has repeatedly responded to overtures from the world with broken promises and provocations. He highlighted his earlier announcement that the U.S. would continue to intensify what he called a "maximum pressure campaign" and keep it in place until North Korea abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The vice president also welcomed a Senate deal that would fund the government for two years and boost military funding, saying the government would continue to build the military and give service members the resources and training needed to accomplish their missions.

From Japan, Pence is traveling to South Korea, where he will hold talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and lead a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Earlier meetings

Speaking after a meeting Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence said the U.S. pressure on North Korea will continue until it "abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all."

The vice president provided no details on what sectors the sanctions would cover or when they would be announced.

Both Pence and Abe, at their meeting and then again in joint statements at the prime minister’s official residence, spoke of strengthening the military alliance between Japan and the United States amid the threat from North Korea.

"The United States is committed to provide Japan with additional cutting-edge defense systems, and our nations are now working together to deliver these new defense systems as quickly as possible," said Pence, who earlier in the day at the Japanese defense ministry watched a PAC-3 interceptor missile battery’s launcher raised to its firing position.

The Japanese leader said he and Pence had spent "a good amount of time" discussing North Korea and have "completely aligned" their policies about Pyongyang.

Abe added that North Korea continues to engage in provocative actions, noting an expected military parade in Pyongyang as the Winter Olympic Games get under way the same day in South Korea.

Both Abe and Pence expressed pessimism that a slight loosening in the tension between North and South Korea will last.

North Korea has been responsible for "a cycle of broken promises, willful deception and escalating provocations," Pence said.

The vice president is on a multistop trip to Northeast Asia that includes leading the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

"We'll be there to cheer our athletes, but we'll also be there to stand with our allies and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," he said.

South-North athletes

Some North Korean athletes are participating in the games and will march under one flag with South Korea's delegation.

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games," Pence added.

U.S. officials, including Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have not ruled out the possibility that the vice president might meet a North Korean official at the sporting event.

"With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting," Vice President Mike Pence said in Alaska on Monday. "But we’ll see what happens."

Among those in the delegation Pyongyang is sending south are Kim Yong Nam, who is the ceremonial head of North Korea’s government and Kim Yo Jong, an influential sister of leader Kim Jong Un.

Others attending as official members of the delegation are Pence's wife, Karen Pence; Army General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. and United Nations forces on the peninsula; Brooks’ predecessor, retired Army General James Thurman; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce; Chargé d'Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul Marc Knapper; and 2002 Olympic figure skating gold medal winner Sara Hughes.

Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea and died last year after returning to the United States in a coma, will be Pence’s designated special guest at the opening ceremony.

The sight of Warmbier alongside Pence will serve to "remind the world of the atrocities that happen in North Korea," according to a White House official.