US Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea on Monday not to test American resolve, but he also raised the possibility that the Trump administration could pursue talks. The message, delivered by Mr. Pence on a visit to South Korea that included a stop at the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula, showed that the American administration, while talking tough, was not ruling out negotiations.
North Korea should not test “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Mr. Pence said in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Yet, he also noted that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.”
Though North Korea refrained from detonating a nuclear device and botched another missile test this weekend, the Trump administration has not yet found a way around the limited options against the North that constrained his predecessors and put it on the path to becoming a nuclear power.
The Trump administration essentially has three choices: a military strike that could ignite a full-blown war; pressure on China to impose tougher sanctions to persuade the North to change course, an approach that failed for his predecessors; or a deal that could require significant concessions, with no guarantee that North Korea would fulfill its promises.
Thus far, Trump has tried to signal both resolve and ambiguity, suggesting at various times that he is open to all three options. The question is whether his apparent willingness to consider both war and a deal may be enough carrot and stick to persuade China to change its approach and apply enough pressure to bring the North to the table.
[The New York Times]