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Pence warns N. Korea ‘era of strategic patience is over’

SEOUL/TOKYO/BEIJING/UNITED NATIONS: In a trip full of Cold War symbolism, US Vice President Mike Pence travelled to the tense zone dividing North and South Korea and warned Pyongyang that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, “the era of strategic patience is over.”

Pence made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarised Zone on Monday at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a US show of force that allowed the vice president to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire. As the brown bomber jacket-clad vice president was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.

Pence told reporters near the DMZ that President Donald Trump was hopeful China would use its “extraordinary levers” to pressure the North to abandon its weapons programme, a day after the North’s failed missile test launch. But Pence expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the regime to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the vice president said a period of patience had followed.

“But the era of strategic patience is over,” he declared. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

Pence reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that “all options are on the table” to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with “an overwhelming and effective response.” He said the American commitment to South Korea is “iron-clad and immutable.” Pointing to Trump’s recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Pence said, “North Korea would do well not to test his resolve,” or the US armed forces in the region.

US accused of creating situation for nuclear war

North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador accused the United States on Monday of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Kim In Ryong told a news conference that “if the US dares opt for a military action,” North Korea “is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US” He said the Trump administration’s deployment of the Carl Vinson nuclear carrier task group to waters off the Korean peninsula again “proves the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase of its scenario.” Kim stressed that US-South Korean military exercises being staged now are the largest-ever “aggressive war drill” aimed at his country, formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The prevailing grave situation proves once again that the DPRK was entirely just when it increased in every way its military capabilities for self-defense and pre-emptive attack with a nuclear force as a pivot,” he said.

Chinese diplomats snubbed by North Korea

North Korea did not respond this month to requests from senior Chinese diplomats, including the country’s foreign minister, to meet North Korean counterparts, amid rising tension with the United States, Bloomberg reported on Monday.

Citing unidentified sources, the report said China’s special envoy for the North Korea nuclear issue, Wu Dawei, was the other official whose requests for meetings went unanswered.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Last week, the ministry twice said it had no information to provide on whether Wu would be going to North Korea.

Tension has risen as US President Donald Trump takes a hard rhetorical line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has rebuffed admonitions from China and pursued nuclear and missile programmes that Washington sees as a direct threat.

Japan planning for refugees in event of Korean crisis

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that Japan’s government is drawing up contingency plans in case a crisis on the Korean Peninsula sends an influx of refugees to Japan.

Abe told a parliamentary session that the government is formulating measures including protecting foreigners, landing procedures, building and operating shelters, and screening asylum seekers.

Abe’s disclosure came in response to a question that had been occasionally asked in the past but is now more realistic than ever with North Korea’s missile capability rapidly advancing and tension with the US rising.

The government has been also working on evacuation plans for about 60,000 Japanese from South Korea in case of a crisis.

Abe is set to discuss North Korea on Tuesday with US Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence will be flying to Tokyo from South Korea. Abe praised the policy, noting a recent bilateral statement confirming the U.S. commitment to defending Japan with the use of both nuclear and conventional arms as extended deterrence.

“We’ll closely cooperate with the US and South Korea to change (North Korea’s) attitude, and encourage China to play a greater role,” Abe said.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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