Pence, in South Korea, Calls North Korea Missile Test ‘a Provocation’

April 17, 2017


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday described North Korea’s failed missile test as “a provocation” that highlighted the risks plaguing both the region and the United States, as the White House said President Trump had an array of military, diplomatic and other options to respond.

“This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face each and 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,” Mr. Pence said at an Easter dinner at Yongsan military base in Seoul, South Korea, where he was beginning a 10-day tour of Asia.

Mr. Pence said he had spoken with Mr. Trump, who asked him to convey to the troops stationed in South Korea that “we’re proud of you and we’re grateful for your service.”

During a visit to the demilitarized zone on Monday, steps from the line of demarcation between North and South Korea, Mr. Pence said the United States was committed to achieving security “through peaceable means, through negotiations,” but he also sought to intensify pressure on the North to change course.

“The era of strategic patience is over,” Mr. Pence said.

He said that “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea, and called on China “to do more” to help confront the threats from Pyongyang.

“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,” Mr. Pence said.

Earlier, aboard Air Force Two as Mr. Pence made his way to South Korea, a White House foreign policy adviser said the United States had had good intelligence about the missile test both in advance and afterward, an intriguing statement that suggested the United States had the information it would have needed to take covert action against the latest launch, even as it left open the question of whether such interference occurred.

K. T. McFarland, Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser, declined Sunday to say whether the United States had sabotaged North Korea’s launch.

“You know we can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations that might have happened,” Ms. McFarland, who was at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat here in Florida and briefed him on Saturday night on the launch, told Fox News. “So, I really have no comment on that, and nor should I.”

“The threat is upon us,” Ms. McFarland added. “This is something President Trump is going to deal with in the first year.”

Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, said the United States was developing an array of potential responses to North Korea’s latest move, in consultation with China.

“This latest missile test just fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime, and I think there’s an international consensus now — including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership — that this is a situation that just can’t continue,” General McMaster said on ABC’s “This Week.” “The president has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons, and so we’re working together with our allies and partners, and with the Chinese leadership, to develop a range of options.”

General McMaster said the United States and its allies would aim to avoid a military response. “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully,” he said.

The White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a delicate national security matter, said Mr. Trump had many military, diplomatic and other tools at his disposal should he choose to answer North Korea’s latest behavior. But he suggested that a response to another in a series of failed launches might not be imminent. A nuclear test, though, would be a different case, the official added.

“If it had been a nuclear test, then other actions would have been taken from the U.S.,” the official said.

United States intelligence indicates that the missile was not an intercontinental ballistic missile but probably a medium-range one, which was launched from the same navy base as an April 5 attempt, and which failed after four to five seconds, the official added.

The Trump administration had been anticipating action this weekend because Saturday was the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, making it the country’s most important holiday.

“We were expecting something particularly surrounding the birthday of his grandfather, so it wasn’t a surprise,” Ms. McFarland said. “I don’t have any particular comment on what happened with the North Korean missile, but it was a fizzle.”

Mr. Trump, who is spending Easter weekend at Mar-a-Lago, had no direct response to the launch, but on Sunday he suggested that China was helping the United States formulate a strategy to counter the North Korean menace, and that he was refraining from calling Beijing a currency manipulator in part because of that cooperation.