Thursday 18 January 2018

As Mike Pence issues a warning from the North Korean border, where do things stand now?

By Alistair Mason

The vice president reiterated America’s “iron clad” support of South Korea.

US Vice President Mike Pence issued a firm warning to North Korea as he visited the border with South Korea during his tour of Asia.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What did Pence actually say?

The VP warned that a 25-year “era of strategic patience” since North Korea first obtained nuclear weapons “is over”.

Pence, on a trip to South Korea for a briefing with military leaders and to meet American troops, was visiting the Korean Demilitarised Zone less than 24 hours after a North Korean missile test failed.

Pence also described the US commitment to South Korea as “iron clad”.

The US vice president said Washington and its allies will achieve its objectives through “peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary” to protect South Korea and stabilise the region.

He said President Donald Trump is hopeful that China will use its “extraordinary levers” to pressure the North to abandon its weapons.

Pence later stood a few yards from the military demarcation line outside Freedom House, gazing at two North Korean soldiers across the border and then a deforested stretch of North Korea from a lookout post in the hillside.

Does that mean there could be military action?

While Pence said the US would act via “whatever means are necessary”, Trump’s National Security Adviser HR McMaster was giving out apparently mixed messages.

McMaster 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 he said: “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”

How are other countries in the region responding?

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government was drawing up contingency plans in case a crisis on the Korean Peninsula sent an influx of refugees to the country.

Abe told a parliamentary session that the government is formulating measures including protecting foreigners, landing procedures, building and operating shelters, and screening asylum seekers.

Abe said the government has been also working on evacuation plans for Japanese from South Korea in case of a crisis.

Why is all this happening now?

As a US aircraft carrier entered the region as an apparent warning from President Trump, North Korea was attempting to flex its military muscles around the anniversary of the birth its founder.

Following a parade showing off the country’d missile arsenal, a North Korean missile exploded during launch on Sunday, US and South Korean officials said.

What has Trump been saying?

At his Florida resort for the Easter weekend, Trump trumpeted the US’s own military capabilities.

The president also returned to a theme of placing emphasis on China for reining in the North.

Last week, he said he would not declare China a currency manipulator, pulling back from a campaign promise, as he looks for help from Beijing, which is the North’s dominant trade partner.

And he reiterated that stance yesterday.

Press Association

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