It was a highly charged message in a highly charged atmosphere. North Korean soldiers stood less than 100 feet behind Vice President Mike Pence at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The Vice President told CNN that Pyongyang should understand that the Trump administration’s approach to the North Korean government would be very different than past U.S. presidents.
“We’re going to abandon the failed policy of strategic patience. But we’re going to redouble our efforts to bring diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea. Our hope is that we can resolve this issue peaceably,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. Pence also referenced the new strategy and hope that has been forged between the U.S. President and the President of China. “I know the President was heartened by his discussions with President Xi (Jinping). We’ve seen China begin to take some actions to bring pressure on North Korea but there needs to be more,” Pence said.
The North Korean regime began their nuclear program during the Clinton administration. The United States tried to prevent this build up through a diplomatic agreement that ultimately failed because of North Korean violations. Later the Bush administration tried global pressure through what was called the “six party talks.” But that attempt to block North Korean nuclear advances failed too. They launched their first nuclear test in 2006 and then four more tests during the Obama administration.
Now it is estimated with continued build up that the North Koreans will have a missile that could hit the continental U.S. by the year 2020. When Pence was asked about that, he paused for several seconds before he gave this answer, “I know the President of the United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. The presence of US forces here in South Korea are a long-standing commitment to the Asia Pacific. And insuring the security of the continental US will be a priority in this administration. Look, we want to be clear: our hope and frankly our prayer is that by marshaling the resources of nations across the Asian Pacific — not just South Korea, Japan, other allies — and China bringing renewed pressure to bear.”
This was the Vice Presidents first trip to the Korean Peninsula, and it was an emotional one. Pence’s father, 2nd Lt. Edward J. Pence Jr., was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in the army during the Korean War. Pence told CNN, “It’s very meaningful for me and my family to be here. So many years after my father’s service. To be honest with you, my dad didn’t talk about his combat experience much until we were all grown up. It was a lot of tough fighting here. I think, in some way, my Dad just might be smiling from heaven to see the sacrifices that he and other American soldiers and South Korean soldiers made here are now passed on to my generation. That’s not changed out our commitment to the secure and prosperity of South Korea.”
Let’s hope that through this present administration’s leadership as well as the allied support, we can keep that region free from future battles and the sacrifices of future soldiers.