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CAMP BONIFAS, South Korea — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit Monday to the perilous Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, which he called the "frontier of freedom."
Pence, whose father was a decorated soldier in the Korean War, joined a motorcade to the DMZ with Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Speaking only a few yards from the military demarcation line, the vice president said "all options are on the table" amid turmoil over North Korea's military threats, including Sunday's failed missile launch.
"The people of North Korea, the military of North Korea, should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies," he said. "The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad."
Pence, who is in South Korea to kick off a 10-day trip to Asia, said earlier during an Easter dinner at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan that the North's latest failed missile launch was "provocation" and that he had spoken to President Donald Trump twice on Sunday.
Pence was joined by his wife and two adult daughters and began his visit by laying a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery.
Wearing white gloves, Pence and his wife picked up three scoops of incense and dropped them into an urn in front of the wreath.
Trump has suggested that the United States will take a tougher stance against North Korea, and Washington has deployed a Navy aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula.
Despite North Korea's provocations, U.S. officials have said the United States doesn't intend to use military force in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch.
After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy of "maximum pressure and engagement," U.S. officials said Friday. The administration's immediate emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of China.
Pence's first trip to South Korea carries personal meaning. His late father, Edward, served in the Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star on April 15, 1953. Pence displays his father's Bronze Star and a photograph of his father receiving the honor in his office.
Pence said it was "humbling for me to be here."
"My father served in the Korean War in the U.S. Army. On the way here, we saw some of the terrain my father fought in," he said. "We're grateful every day. It's a great honor to be here.