Pence visits DMZ amid high tensions with North Korea

Pence went on to underscore that Washington will continue to deploy the USA -led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system "as a defense measure called for by the alliance and for the alliance", and also "evolve a comprehensive set of capabilities to ensure the security of South Korea".

Tensions on the peninsula have ratcheted up in recent weeks, amid tit-for-tat saber-rattling from the United States and North Korea and analysts' warnings that North Korea was preparing for another nuclear test.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, third from left, stands with his daughter Charlotte, second from left, and U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks, right, commander of the United Nations Command, U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command while his daughter Audrey, left, looks through binoculars to see North Korea from Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), near the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea, Monday.

Pence made sure they didn't go unnoticed when, wearing a leather bomber jacket, he made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. Deterrence and defense will also be increased through augmented ballistic missile capabilities. "North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region".

However, the Trump administration's intent to more fully implement US laws, including imposing secondary sanctions on Chinese violators, is now on hold pending actions from China to fulfill pledges it made regarding North Korea during the summit.

On Sunday, Lt Gen HR McMaster, the U.S. 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. During the summit, Trump told the press, "We've had a long discussion already, and so far I've gotten nothing".

Mr Trump recently met Chinese President Xi Jinping where he urged China to pressure its neighbour to abandon its nuclear arsenal. "Not that easy. In other words, not as simple as people would think" for China to exert pressure.

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Hwang shared that he and Pence agreed on the importance of China's constructive role in dealing with Pyongyang and the need for intensive punitive measures in case of North Korea's further provocations.

Tensions have been escalating on the peninsula, with heated rhetoric from both North Korea and the US.

Trump enforced Obama's 2012 red line by attacking a Syrian target responsible for chemical weapons attacks on civilians.

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

Pence made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a USA show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire.

"The White House warned that Trump has put North Korea "clearly on notice" and may take "decisive and proportional" action as seen in the airstrikes on Syria".

He has sent a navy strike group towards the Korean Peninsula, and the US and South Korea are moving ahead with the early deployment of a controversial missile defence system. However, he added, "all options are on the table" when it comes to forcing change in North Korea.

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Moreover, North Korea is not Syria.

He added, "We will defeat any attack and we will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response".

Pence told reporters near the DMZ that President Donald Trump was hopeful that China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its weapons program, a day after the North's failed missile launch.

Continued U.S. threats could exacerbate the situation or lead to perceptions of Washington as a paper tiger.

The good news is that war didn't break out on the Korean peninsula over the weekend.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, spent 20 years in the intelligence community working at the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency.

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