On the second day of his first trip to the South since taking office, Pence headed to Camp Bonifas joint base just outside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) on the border with the North and met with South Korean and American troops stationed there.
The DMZ is a heavily mined 4-kilometers-wide strip that separates the two Koreas.
The US vice president said his country stands by its “iron-clad alliance” with South Korea and would try to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula through strength.
Warning the North that “all options are on the table,” Pence said Washington was ready to take appropriate actions to protect South Korea.
“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” he said. “There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.”
Pence’s visit to the DMZ came against the backdrop of what American and South Korean officials called a “failed” missile launch by Pyongyang early on Sunday.
Describing the launch as “a provocation,” Pence said President Donald Trump was working with China and other allies to come up with a tough response.
Trump told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in their White House meeting last week that the US would “act alone” on the North if China fails to help ease the tensions as Pyongyang’s main trade partner.
H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said Sunday that the US, its allies and China were working on a range of options “short of a military action.”
Imposing an oil embargo, a global ban on North Korea’s airline, intercepting the country’s cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang are some of the options that American officials say are on the agenda.
Last week, however, a US aircraft carrier-led strike group set course for the western Pacific Ocean close to the Korean Peninsula amid growing fears over the North’s weapons tests.
For Pence, the visit to the region bears a personal significance, since his father fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.