US Vice President Mike Pence visits Observation Post Ouellette with his daughters near the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone on the border between North and South Korea on Monday. Photo: AP
The US and South Korea said on Monday that they would tolerate no more missile or nuclear tests from North Korea, with US Vice President Mike Pence warning Pyongyang not to test the resolve of President Donald Trump.
Analysts believe the comments put pressure on Beijing to take a tougher stance against Pyongyang.
Pence and acting South Korean president Hwang Kyo-ahn met on Monday, vowing to move ahead with the early deployment of the THAAD missile defense system, and that neither the US nor South Korea would tolerate further missile and nuclear tests, Reuters reported on Monday.
"Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the US in this region," Pence said, noting that the US Navy struck a Syrian airfield with 59 Tomahawk missiles this month.
"Pence wanted to deliver a message to North Korea that it would use every means, including military ones, to crack down on its nuclear and related facilities," Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the China Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Liu said this is the US' toughest attitude so far.
"The US also wants to pressure China to cooperate on North Korea by showing its muscle. It will urge China to strengthen supervision or even cut oil and food aid," Liu said.
China's foreign ministry said on Monday that China would like to cooperate with all parties, including the US, to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and safeguard regional peace through negotiations.
"But China may reconsider some of its previous policies on North Korea when it involves Sino-US relations and the future impact of North Korea's nuclear tests on China, as well as the deployment of THAAD," Liu said.
North Korea's nuclear tests have triggered concern among Chinese netizens, especially for those who live near the border.
A man surnamed Zhang from Dandong, Liaoning Province told the Global Times that he is worried about a possible war on the Korean Peninsula and refugees.
In a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea on Monday, Pence also said that "all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country," and "there was a period of strategic patience, but the era of strategic patience is over."
Pence's remarks came one day after North Korea tested an unidentified missile early on Sunday from the coastal city of Sinpo, with the Pentagon confirming that it had failed, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, indicated on Sunday that Trump was not considering military action against North Korea for now, even as a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier strike group was heading for the region, Reuters reported.
"The US military threat may bring a tough response from North Korea," Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. He noted that the military parade on Saturday and a possible nuclear test on April 24 or 25 might reflect North Korea's attitude.
Yonhap News reported on Friday that North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the military's founding on April 25, "a possible occasion for a provocative act."
"If North Korea launches a new round of nuclear tests, it will give the US an excuse to strike as well as condemnation from the international community and opposition from China and Russia," Lü said.
"Pence's visit is also aimed at pacifying South Korea. South Koreans have been worried about a possible war when the US made military threats in response to North Korea's continuing nuclear tests," Liu said.
On Monday, a plane that was supposed to leave Pyongyang at 8.30 am for Beijing was delayed 10 hours.
An anonymous North Korean official who stayed with foreign media and visitors at the airport told the Global Times that more than 20 reporters were stuck at the airport and bad weather had delayed flights.
The North Korean government invited the foreign press to cover the Day of the Sun, the birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung.
A Global Times reporter saw stranded passengers at the airport becoming nervous especially after the monitor displaying boarding information suddenly went blank at 4:40 pm.
A Chinese Embassy official in Pyongyang told the Global Times flights are always delayed, and that there was no reason for concern.