Russia on Monday warned Washington against launching a unilateral strike on North Korea, after US vice president Mike Pence said the era of ‘strategic patience’ with Pyongyang was over.
‘This is a very risky path,’ Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow.
‘We do not accept the reckless nuclear missile actions of Pyongyang that breach UN resolutions, but that does not mean that you can break international law,’ he said.
‘I hope that there will not be any unilateral actions like the one we saw recently in Syria.’
Pence on Monday warned North Korea not to test president Donald Trump’s
resolve, declaring that ‘all options are on the table’ for curbing its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
Defying international pressure, the North on Sunday tried to test-fire another missile in an attempt that failed, but which fuelled fears that it may be preparing for its sixth atomic weapons test.
Pence said that the era of US ‘strategic patience’ in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.
‘In the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,’ Pence said.
‘North Korea would do well not to test his resolve, or the strength of the armed forces of the United States.’
Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have soared in recent weeks, as a series of North Korean missile tests have prompted ever-more bellicose warnings from Trump’s administration.
The new and inexperienced US president has indicated he will not allow North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the western United States.
Pence declared that the era of US ‘strategic patience’ in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.
North Korea ‘answered our overtures with wilful deception, broken promises and nuclear and missile tests’, he said.
The US, which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, would ‘defeat any attack and we will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response’.
Pence’s trip earlier Monday to the Demilitarised Zone between the two Koreas – one of the most heavily fortified frontiers on the planet – underscored Washington’s changing policy towards the isolated state.
The visit came after a huge military parade Saturday during which North Korea showcased apparent intercontinental ballistic missiles, and as a US carrier group converges on the Korean peninsula.
It also came the day after North Korea’s latest launch – which failed when the missile blew up seconds after blast-off.
Speaking at the village of Panmunjom inside the DMZ, Pence said America’s relationship with South Korea was ‘ironclad and immutable’.
Pyongyang insists it needs a powerful arsenal – including atomic weapons – to protect itself from what it says is the ever-present threat of US invasion.
A top White House foreign policy adviser on Sunday became the latest Trump official to warn that while diplomatic pressure was preferable, US military action is very much on the table.
Pence urged the international community to join US and regional demands for an end to the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
‘It is heartening to see China commit to these actions. But the United States is troubled by China’s economic retaliation against South Korea for taking appropriate steps to defend itself,’ he said, referring to the US THAAD missile defence system.
The system being installed in South Korea is designed to shoot down missiles from North Korea or elsewhere. But China furiously objects to its deployment, saying it could spy on its own defence installations, and has taken apparent retaliatory action against South Korean firms operating in its country.
Pence said he and Trump ‘have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea’.
‘But as president Trump made clear just a few short days ago, if China is unable to deal with North Korea, the United States and our allies will.’
Meanwhile, China Monday denied any political motive in the cancellation of flights by its flag carrier to North Korea, as pressure mounts on Beijing to help curb Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.
State broadcaster CCTV reported last Friday that Air China had suspended its Beijing-Pyongyang route, leading to speculation the move was intended to pressure the North.
But foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang distanced his government from the decision and said it was purely ‘market-based’.
‘It’s natural for Air China or other airlines to make such decisions,’ Lu told a regular press briefing. ‘There shouldn’t be overinterpretation of this issue.’
Beijing is Pyongyang’s only major ally and biggest trade partner. It is being urged by the Trump administration to do more to rein in the North’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
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