Pence: US era of strategic patience with North Korea over

A North Korean soldier takes a photo as two soldiers look at the South side while US Vice President Mike Pence visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on 17 April 2017North Korean guards on the border watched as Mr Pence toured the village, with one seen photographing his visit

 

Pence: US era of strategic patience with North Korea overUS Vice-President Mike Pence has said his country’s “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

Mr Pence made the remarks at the demilitarised zone (DMZ), the area dividing the two Koreas, during a visit to South Korea to reaffirm ties.

His visit comes amid escalated tensions on the peninsula, with heated rhetoric from both North Korea and the US.

He arrived in Seoul on Sunday hours after North Korea carried out a failed missile launch.

On Monday, the US and South Korea launched a joint air force military exercise to ensure readiness against North Korea, according to South Korean media.

Mr Pence, whose father served in the Korean War, was speaking on Monday at the truce village of Panmunjom, where the war’s armistice was signed.

He told reporters: “There was a period of strategic patience, but the era of strategic patience is over.”

The US wants to achieve security on the peninsula “through peaceable means, through negotiations”, he said, “but all options are on the table”.

Mr Pence’s latest comments echoed those made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who warned that pre-emptive military action was “on the table” when he visited the DMZ last month.

Mr Pence also reiterated the US commitment to South Korea, saying it was an “iron-clad alliance”, and that North Korea “should not mistake the resolve” of the US to stand with its allies.

He has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test as a “provocation”.

Also on Monday Mr Pence went to Camp Bonifas, a United Nations military compound near the DMZ.

Mr Pence is visiting South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia on a 10-day Asia tour.

On Sunday, Lt Gen HR McMaster, the US top security adviser, said his country was working on a “range of options” with China, the first confirmation the two countries were co-operating to find a solution to the North Korean issue.

US President Donald Trump also said on Sunday that Beijing was “working with us on the North Korean problem”. He had stated last week that the US and its allies may “deal with” Pyongyang if China did not.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Seoul says US policy now seems to persuade China to contain North Korea while keeping the economic and military pressure on.

China, historically Pyongyang’s sole major ally, has reiterated its call for North Korea to stop all tests, and has also called for a peaceful solution.

Besides Sunday’s launch, North Korea has held a series of large-scale events in the past week including a massive celebration and military parade on Saturday.

Media captionThe BBC’s John Sudworth, in Pyongyang, explains what may happen next

It has denounced the US deployment of an aircraft carrier group to the region, saying it would respond by “force of arms” to “reckless moves”.

Observers have said North Korea may conduct a sixth nuclear test soon, with activity reported at nuclear facilities, according to the website 38 North.

Meanwhile about 1,000 US airmen and fighter jets are taking part in a combat training exercise in South Korea, reported Yonhap news agency. South Korea has sent about 500 personnel and planes. The Max Thunder exercise will last for two weeks.

Last month, the US announced it had begun deploying the first parts of a controversial missile defence system in South Korea.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

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What is the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (Thaad)?

  • Shoots down short and medium-range ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their flight
  • Uses hit-to-kill technology – where kinetic energy destroys the incoming warhead
  • Has a range of 200km and can reach an altitude of 150km
  • US has previously deployed it in Guam and Hawaii as a measure against potential attacks from North Korea

What impact will S Korea’s expanded missile defence system have?

Thaad missile defence system graphic

1. The enemy launches a missile

2. The Thaad radar system detects the launch, which is relayed to command and control

3. Thaad command and control instructs the launch of an interceptor missile

4. The interceptor missile is fired at the enemy projectile

5. The enemy projectile is destroyed in the terminal phase of flight

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