‘You inspire the world’: US Vice-President Mike Pence addresses South Korean military personnel during Asian tour

During a meal after the services, he said the tensions on the Korean peninsula had put into sharp focus the importance of the joint US-South Korean mission

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 10:48pm

US Vice-President Mike Pence said North Korea’s “provocation” underscored the risks faced by American and South Korean ­service members, hours after the North conducted a failed missile launch shortly before his arrival.

Pence landed in South Korea at the start of a 10-day trip to Asia and was quickly confronted with the stakes facing the US as Pyongyang seeks to flex its muscles around the birth anniversary of the country’s late founder and advance the government’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

While Pence was aboard Air Force Two flying over the Bering Sea, a North Korean missile exploded on launch, US and South Korean officials said, representing a high-profile failure that came as a powerful US aircraft carrier approaches the Korean Peninsula.

After arriving in Seoul, the vice-president placed a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery and then worshipped with military personnel at an Easter church ­service at the US Army Garrison Yongsan. During a meal after the services, he said the tensions on the Korean peninsula had put into sharp focus the importance of the joint US-South Korean mission.

“This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest ­reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defence of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defence of America in this part of the world,” Pence said.

“Your willingness to step ­forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world.”

Pence told the military members that he had spoken twice with US President Donald Trump during the day.

Pence said under Trump’s leadership, “our resolve has never been stronger, our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger and with your help and God’s help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula”.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, including two last year. Recent satellite imagery suggests the country could ­conduct another underground nuclear test at any time.

A White House foreign policy adviser told reporters aboard Air Force Two that had there been a nuclear test, “other actions would have been taken by the US”.

Despite North Korea’s provocations, US officials have said that the US doesn’t intend to use ­military force against North Korea in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch. After a two-month policy ­review, the White House settled on a policy dubbed “maximum pressure and engagement”, officials said on Friday.

Pence will be tasked with explaining the policy in meetings with leaders during his trip, which will include stops in Indonesia and Australia. He will also try to ­reassure allies in South Korea and Japan that the US will take steps to defend them against North ­Korean aggression.