In Seoul on the first leg of a 10-day trip across Asia, Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that North Korea’s latest failed launch of a ballistic missile demonstrates just how dangerous tensions are becoming in the divided peninsula.
“This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world,” said Pence in remarks to U.S. and South Korean military troops. “Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world.”
Pence said the Trump administration would not waver in its support of South Korea.
“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,” he said.
Kim Jong Un did not carry out a sixth nuclear weapons test in conjunction with his grandfather’s 105th birthday anniversary celebration – a test that the U.S. had warned would be met with action. Whether Kim backed away from a planned test or had never intended to carry it out in the first place is not known.
What is known is that we haven’t been this close to war with North Korea in a long time, and there’s no ignoring the nuclear capabilities Pyongyang is widely suspected to possess. Do they have a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland? Almost certainly not. Do they have the capabilities of carrying out a nuclear strike on Seoul? Experts aren’t sure, but it’s highly possible.
Neither Kim Jong Un nor President Trump want war. Kim is testing the new administration, trying his damnedest to get some version of the deal Obama made with Iran. He wants a seat at the negotiating table. He wants his bizarre, insulated regime to have a voice on the international stage, and there’s no telling how far he’s willing to go to secure that voice.
Thankfully, Trump shows no signs of being as foolish as Obama. Unlike the previous administration, our new president will not be pushed around by these thuggish dictatorships. Solving the North Korean crisis will take more than tough talk and more, even, then threatening military posturing. But there is still hope that it can be done with less than all-out war.
That hope rests in the hands of China, and Trump’s ability to coax/pressure/negotiate them into taking our side against the madman in Pyongyang. Last week’s Mar-a-Lago summit appeared to be a positive first step in that direction. Let’s pray it’s not the last.