U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea on Sunday to begin his 10-day Asia trip that comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s threats to advance its nuclear and defense capabilities.
The vice president arrived in the region a day after North Korea celebrated the birth anniversary of the country’s late founder with a military parade showing off missiles and military hardware.
A North Korean missile exploded during its launch on Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said. The failed missile launch comes as a powerful U.S. aircraft supercarrier approaches the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.
The vice president was joined by his wife and two adult daughters and was laying a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery at the start of his trip. Pence is expected to join U.S. and South Korean troops for Easter Sunday church services and a dinner later in the day.
Trump has suggested that the U.S. will take a tougher stance against the North Korean threat. “North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of,” Trump told reporters last week.
Along with the deployment of the Naval aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula, thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry were also deployed last month in their biggest-ever joint military exercises.
Despite North Korea’s provocations, U.S. officials have said that the U.S. doesn’t intend to use military force against North Korea in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch.
After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy dubbed “maximum pressure and engagement,” U.S. officials said Friday. The administration’s immediate emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of Beijing.
Pence will be tasked with explaining the policy in meetings with leaders in South Korea and Japan at the start of his trip, which will also include stops in Indonesia and Australia. He will also aim to reassure allies in South Korea and Japan that the U.S. will take appropriate steps to defend them against North Korean aggression.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.