‘Peace-loving’ Pence ramps up rhetoric with Pacific troops
US VICE-PRESIDENT Mike Pence warned “the sword stands ready” to fall on North Korea yesterday.
Speaking from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, moored in Tokyo Bay, Mr Pence threatened to unleash “overwhelming” military force against Pyongyang.
“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” he told some 2,500 sailors gathered on the flight deck.
“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response.”
But his warning rang hollow as the US Pacific Command revealed the “armada” US President Donald Trump said he had dispatched to North Korea’s coast last week had in fact sailed to Australia for a training drill over the weekend.
It said the battle group led by the carrier USS Carl Vinson was now heading to the western Pacific “as a prudent measure” but would not arrive for another week.
China’s English-language Global Times — considered the voice of the ruling Communist Party — speculated Mr Trump may have been bluffing in his brinkmanship with Pyongyang.
Yesterday China expressed “serious concern” at North Korea’s nuclear development. The comments were made in response to a BBC interview with North Korea’s vice-foreign minister who said that Pyongyang would launch a pre-emptive strike if it believed that the US was planning an attack.
Meanwhile US Defence Secretary James Mattis, in Saudi Arabia to discuss the invasion of Yemen, denounced North Korea’s latest missile test. “The leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile,” he said.
Pyongyang has offered to halt its nuclear and missile programme if the US ends its “reckless” military exercise drills with South Korea.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters he hoped “there will be no unilateral actions like those we saw recently in Syria and that the US will follow the line that President Trump repeatedly voiced during the election campaign” — referring to the president’s promise to keep the US out of foreign conflicts.