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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 19)

2017/04/19 06:56

End of 'strategic patience'

  Kim should heed Trump's warning not to test US resolve

The Trump administration has declared a departure from the era of "strategic patience" in handling North Korea.

During a visit to South Korea, Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence underlined his President's new approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue compared to the previous administration. Pence told North Korea not to test Trump's resolve, saying "Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new President in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan." The vice president also said that "all options are on the table" to curb North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's missile and nuclear development.

Pence's visit came amid escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile test earlier this month ahead of the first U.S.-China summit after Trump assumed office in January. This was followed by failed missile test a day after North Korea celebrated the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-sung on April 15.

Pence's visit produced two very important outcomes. First, it reaffirmed the strong alliance between our two countries ahead of a power transition in the South. Pence reassured that the Trump administration will be with Korea "100 percent" no matter what happens in the May 9 presidential election.

It is noteworthy that Trump has sent his vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense consecutively to Korea even during a leadership absence after the removal from office of former President Park Geun-hye last month. The series of visits by high-level U.S. officials show that Trump is eager to communicate with Seoul regarding urgent bilateral issues, particularly on how to deal with the North. Pence's visit helped assuage widespread concerns in the local media over "Korea passing," a term coined to describe Korea's diplomatic isolation in the Trump era.

Second, Pence sent a clear message to Beijing to do its part to denuclearize North Korea. During a press conference with acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Pence showed concerns about Beijing's retaliatory measures for Seoul's decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, an advanced U.S. missile defense system. "The better path will be for China to address the North Korean threat that is making such defensive measures necessary," Pence said.

It was widely reported that Pence's late father, Edward, was a decorated soldier during the 1950-53 Korean War. Many Koreans were moved when the U.S. vice president made an unannounced visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. "The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad," he said. His personal ties to Korea are an unforgettable reminder of the special alliance and friendship of the two countries. It is vital for Korea and the U.S. to build on this alliance for regional stability.

(END)

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