The United States will counter any North Korean attack with an “overwhelming and effective” response, Vice President Mike Pence vowed Wednesday, as he stood on the deck of a massive American aircraft carrier docked in Japan.
Donald Trump’s deputy is in the region to reassure allies fretting over Pyongyang’s quickening missile program, and its apparent readiness to carry out another banned nuclear test in its quest to develop an atomic weapon that can hit the US mainland.
Pence, whose visit started in South Korea the day after the failed launch by North Korea of what analysts said could have been a new missile, described the threat from the isolated regime as growing.
Aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, the vice president, adopting a Churchillian tone, told troops he was there as “storm clouds gather on the horizon” of Northeast Asia.
“North Korea is the most dangerous and urgent threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific,” Pence said.
But, “we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response.”
Pence’s comments come after a senior North Korean official warned the regime had no intention of dialing down its missile program, pledging weekly tests and threatening “all-out war” if the US took any action against it.
That kind of rhetoric has unnerved allies in Japan and South Korea, who would be at the sharp end of any North Korean response.
Seoul, the South Korean capital, is just 56 kilometers away from the military demarcation line that splits the Korean peninsula, and is within easy range of North Korean long-range artillery.
The Ronald Reagan, whose home port is Yokosuka in Japan, is part of the Seventh Fleet and is regularly deployed around the western Pacific.