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War of Words

North Korea is 'ready to react to any mode of war desired by US'

When US President Donald Trump was asked for his thoughts on North Korea, he reportedly replied “Gotta behave”.

South Korea - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Visit to DMZ Young Ho / SIPA USA/PA Images Young Ho / SIPA USA/PA Images / SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated at 6.45pm

A WAR OF words between the US and North Korea has been rumbling on today, prompted by Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the border between the two Koreas, and by North Korea’s recent missile tests.

Pence inflamed relations when he told a news conference in South Korea that “the era of strategic patience is over”.

This was in response to another missile test by North Korea yesterday, as fears mounted that it may be preparing a sixth nuclear test.

After the comment that hinted of increased US involvement, Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC that North Korea would increase their number of tests:

We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.

He said that an “all-out war” would result if the US took military action. The UN’s Deputy Ambassador to North Korea Kim In Ryong made an equally strong statement when he told a news conference that North Korea was preparing to ”counter nukes and ICBM in kind”. He said:

If the United States dares opt for a military action (…) the DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the Americans.

“We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs,” said Kim.

South Korea US Pence Korea Pence looking towards North Korea from the DMZ. Lee Jin-man / PA Wire Lee Jin-man / PA Wire / PA Wire

Meanwhile, when US President Donald Trump was asked during an Easter event at the White House what were his thoughts on North Korea, he reportedly replied “Gotta behave”. But Pence said that ”all options are on the table” in dealing with Pyongyang, leaving both military action and diplomatic talks on the table. In conversation with the New York Times, a security adviser compared the developments between US and North Korea to the Cuban missile crisis:

What is playing out, said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who tracks this potentially deadly interplay, is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.”

Why the state visit?

Pence’s visit comes after a huge military parade during which North Korea showcased apparent intercontinental ballistic missiles, and as a US carrier group converges on the Korean peninsula, ratcheting up tensions to their highest point in years.

The latest launch of a missile failed when the device blew up seconds after blast off.

Washington wants to achieve security “through peaceable means, through negotiations”, Pence said at the village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ):

But all options are on the table as we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of South Korea.

Pence, speaking at Freedom House, a few metres from the military demarcation line that he described as a “frontier of freedom”, said America’s relationship with South Korea was “ironclad and immutable”.

South Korea US Pence Korea Two North Korean soldiers look on at Pence's visit. Lee Jin-man / PA Wire Lee Jin-man / PA Wire / PA Wire

“The message of the people of the United States of America is that we seek peace, but America has always sought peace through strength and my message here today standing with US forces Korea, standing with courageous soldiers from the Republic of Korea is a message of resolve.

The people of North Korea, the military of North Korea should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies.

He also said “the era of strategic patience is over” and expressed hopes that China would “do more” to help solve the problem.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have soared in recent weeks, as a series of North Korean weapons tests have sparked increasingly aggressive warnings from Donald Trump’s administration.

South Korea US Pence Korea Pence speaking with South Korean acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Lee Jin-man / PA Wire Lee Jin-man / PA Wire / PA Wire

The new and inexperienced US president has indicated he will not allow North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the western United States.

Pyongyang insists it needs a powerful arsenal – including atomic weapons – to protect itself from what it says is the ever-present threat of invasion by hostile US forces.

A top White House foreign policy adviser on Sunday became the latest Trump official to warn that while diplomatic pressure was preferable, US military action is very much on the table.

“We have a wide array of tools at disposal for the president should he choose to use them,” the official said.

Speaking yesterday before a handful of the 28,500 US military personnel stationed in South Korea, Pence denounced the latest North Korea test as a “provocation”.

“Let me assure you that under President 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,” he said.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

© – AFP, 2017

Read: Kim Jong Un left red-faced as North Korean ‘missile test fails’ one day after military parade >

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