Pence reiterated the commitment to defend U.S. allies in the region from North Korea — which he called “the most dangerous and urgent threat to the peace and security of the Asia Pacific” during remarks to U.S. and Japanese troops aboard the USS Ronald Reagan at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.
Pence had struck a more conciliatory tone at a press conference with the Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo Tuesday. At that event he said that the Trump administration is actively working with its allies in the region — Japan, South Korea and China — to deploy diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to try to achieve a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
"It is our belief that by bringing together the family of nations with diplomatic and economic pressure, we have a chance — we have a chance — to achieve our objective of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula," he said.
He added, "Now all options are on the table, and there they will remain. But President Trump and I and our administration believes the most productive pathway forward is dialogue among the family of nations that can isolate and pressure North Korea into abandoning permanently and dismantling its nuclear weapons program and its ballistic missile program."
But on Wednesday, Pence said that despite more than two decades of negotiations, Pyongyang has answered Washington’s efforts with “willful deception, with broken promises, and nuclear and missile tests.” He again reiterated that with the Trump administration, “the era of strategic patience is over.”
Standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier, Pence said that the White House will continue to work with Japan, China and other allies in the region to put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
He warned, “those who would challenge our resolve or our readiness should know: We will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response.”
His comments were met with applause by the troops.
“The United States of America will always seek peace, but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” he added.
Pence did not touch on the questions still swirling about why the Trump administration said an armada was headed to the Korean peninsula last week when it was actually headed in the opposite direction.
And while the tensions with North Korea have dominated Pence’s trip, the purpose of it is to promote U.S. trade in the region. Pence also spoke to Japanese business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo and assured them that the Trump administration’s plans for a tax overhaul and to cut regulations will help businesses in the Pacific, too.
During his earlier remarks aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, he touched on a major hot button issue in the region with China — the South China Seas. He vowed that the U.S. would help “protect the freedom of navigation” in the South China Seas and “ensure the unimpeded flow of lawful commerce.”
The next stop on Pence’s Asia tour will be Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation.