“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,” Pence said at an Easter dinner at Yongsan military base in Seoul, where he was beginning a 10-day tour of four Asian countries.
Pence said he had spoken with President Donald Trump, who asked to convey to the troops in South Korea that “we’re proud of you and we’re grateful for your service.”
Pence was departing from Alaska when North Korea launched a ballistic missile that exploded within a few seconds. One day earlier, North Korea conducted a massive military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the April 15 anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung‘s birthday.
A White House foreign policy adviser traveling with Pence on the plane said that the United States did not need to take action “to reinforce their failure.”
“If it had been a nuclear test than other actions would have been taken from the U.S.,” the adviser told reporters on the vice president’s plane.
The official said Trump had numerous ways to respond if needed.
“We’ve got a range of options — both militarily, diplomatic and others — so we have a wide array of tools at disposal for the president should he choose to use them,” the official said. “But for this particular case, if they took the time and energy to launch a missile that failed, we don’t need to expend any resources against that.”
The missile was probably a medium-range missile and not an intercontinental ballistic one, according to U.S. intelligence.
“We weren’t surprised by it, we were anticipating it,” the foreign policy adviser said. “It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out.”
Pence was scheduled to meet with Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president of South Korea, on Monday to discuss the North Korean threat.
Trump is spending Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.
He didn’t respond to the missile firing but posted on Twitter Sunday morning: “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!”
One hour later he posted, “Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!”
Also Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by telephone with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi and they “exchanged views on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.