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Pence Warns North Korea of Donald Trump's 'Resolve' on Nuclear Standoff

"All options are on the table," Mike Pence said, putting reclusive North Korea on notice that neither the U.S. nor South Korea would tolerate further missile or nuclear tests.
Image: Mike Pence, Vincent Brooks, Leem Ho-young
Vice President Mike Pence is escorted around the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which has separated the two Koreas for decades.Lee Jin-man / AP

Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea not to test the strength of America's military might, underlining a message that the Trump administration sought to bring peace through strength.

"All options are on the table," he reiterated Monday while standing next to South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, putting reclusive North Korea on notice that neither the U.S. nor South Korea would tolerate further missile or nuclear tests.

On Sunday, North Korea attempted a missile launch but it failed "almost immediately" according to U.S. and South Korean military officials.

"Just in the past two weeks we witnessed the strength of resolve of our new leader. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve," Pence added in apparent reference to U.S. missile strikes on Syria following a gas attack in that country, as well as the decision to drop a huge bomb on an ISIS cave complex in Afghanistan.

Pence added that the U.S. and its allies will achieve their objectives through "peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary to protect South Korea and stabilize the region."

He reiterated the U.S. commitment to South Korea, whose population sits in the shadow of its bellicose neighbor and could face catastrophe if the North were to lash out.

"On behalf of President Trump, my message to South Korea is this — we are with you 100 percent," he said, adding the "era of strategic patience is over."

Trump has already suggested that he will take a tougher stance against North Korea than his predecessor Barack Obama, and Washington has deployed a Navy aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier, Pence made an unannounced visit to the perilous Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, which he called the "frontier of freedom."

Pence's visit has been full of Cold War symbolism and his comments came amid spiraling tensions on the Korean Peninsula. While the North did not conduct a nuclear test over the weekend, the specter of a potential escalation hung over he start of his 10-day trip to Asia.

Trump himself has said that China was working with the U.S. to help resolve "the North Korea problem."

National security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has also cited Trump's recent decision to order missile strikes in Syria after the alleged chemical attack blamed on the government of Bashar al-Assad as a sign that the president "is clearly comfortable making tough decisions."

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of U.S. ally Japan, also reiterated his believe that pressure, not only dialogue, is necessary in dealing with North Korea's missile and nuclear threat.

"Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace. But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless," he told a parliamentary session Monday after North Korea's massive military parade and failed missile launch.

"We need to apply pressure on North Korea so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the international community. Abe also urged China and Russia to play more constructive roles on the issue.