SEOUL: President Donald Trump asserted on Sunday that China was working with the United States on “the North Korea problem,” and his vice president told American and South Korea service members that the North’s latest “provocation,” a failed missile launch shortly before his arrival in Seoul, laid bare the risks they face.
While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the spectre of a potential escalated US response trailed Pence as he began a 10-day trip to Asia amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric.
Trump’s national security adviser cited Trump’s recent decision to order missile strikes in Syria after a chemical attack blamed on the Assad government as a sign that the president “is clearly comfortable making tough decisions.” But at the same time, H.R. McMaster said, “it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”
In a broadcast interview that aired on Sunday, McMaster said the US would rely on its allies as well as on Chinese leadership to resolve the issues with North Korea.
“I mean, North Korea is very vulnerable to pressure from the Chinese,” McMaster said on ABC’s “This Week.” The bottom line, McMaster said, is to stop the North’s weapons development and make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free: “It’s clear that the president is determined not to allow this kind of capability to threaten the United States. And our president will take action that is in the best interest of the American people.”
After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy dubbed “maximum pressure and engagement,” US officials said on Friday.
The administration’s immediate emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of Beijing.
The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the results of the policy review and requested anonymity.
Pence will be tasked with explaining the policy in meetings with leaders in South Korea and Japan at the start of his trip, which will also include stops in Indonesia and Australia.
He will also aim to reassure allies in South Korea and Japan that the US will take appropriate steps to defend them against North Korean aggression.
Pence was aboard Air Force Two flying over the Bering Sea when a North Korean missile exploded during launch on Sunday, US and South Korean officials said. The high-profile failure came as the North tried to showcase its nuclear and missile capabilities around the birth anniversary of the North’s late founder and as a US aircraft carrier neared the Korean Peninsula.
A White House foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence said no US response to the missile launch was expected because there was no need for the US to reinforce the failure.