Vice President Mike Pence, speaking from the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, issued a warning to the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un, one day after that country's latest missile test on April 16 ended in failure.
"This morning's provocation 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 a speech to U.S. troops, as reported by the Daily Mail.
He said the "era of patience" with Kim Jong-un is over, noting that "all options are on the table" -- a code phrase understood to mean nuclear war.
Pence also warned the regime not to "test the resolve" of President Donald Trump and said that if it ever used nuclear weapons, the U.S. would respond with "an overwhelming and effective response."
Then he called on China to use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure the North to abandon its nuclear and ballistic program.
Along with Pence's threats, Trump himself has ordered a naval strike group to the region as a show of force.
In response, Russia warned the U.S. against launching a unilateral strike on North Korea, describing Trump's policy as a "risky path."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We do not accept the reckless nuclear missile actions of Pyongyang that breach U.N. resolutions, but that does not mean that you can break international law. I hope that there will not be any unilateral actions like the one we saw recently in Syria."
Bruce Cumings, a history professor at Chicago University and a leading expert on North Korea, also prescribes diplomacy over force when dealing with the regime in Pyongyang. "It has the fourth-largest army in the world, as many as 200,000 highly trained special forces, 10,000 artillery pieces in the mountains north of Seoul, mobile missiles that can hit all American military bases in the region (there are hundreds), and nuclear weapons more than twice as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb."
Regarding Pence's remark about the "era of patience," Cumings contends that it is North Korea, not the U.S., that has been patient in recent years. "President Bill Clinton got [North Korea] to freeze its plutonium production for eight years and, in October 2000, had indirectly worked out a deal to buy all of its medium- and long-range missiles. Clinton also signed an agreement with Gen. Jo Myong-rok stating that henceforth, neither country would bear 'hostile intent' toward the other. The Bush administration promptly ignored both agreements and set out to destroy the 1994 freeze…. The simple fact is that Pyongyang would have no nuclear weapons if Clinton’s agreements had been sustained."