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Pence warns North Korea: ‘The sword stands ready’

Ken Thomas and Robert Burns
Associated Press

Yokosuka, Japan — From the wind-swept deck of a massive aircraft carrier, Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U.S. military, promising it would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.

Pence, dressed in a green military jacket, said aboard the hulking USS Ronald Reagan that President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to “work diligently” with allies like Japan, China and other global powers to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang. But he told the sailors, “as all of you know, readiness is the key.”

“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Pence told 2,500 sailors wearing blue fatigues and Naval baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard the carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay.

“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,” Pence said.

More than a week earlier, on April 8, the U.S. Navy announced that a strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson had been diverted north from Singapore to the Western Pacific as speculation mounted that North Korea was preparing a nuclear or missile test. Days later, in response to a question about the warships, Trump told the Fox Business Network that the U.S. was "sending an armada, very powerful" to North Korea.

Instead, the fleet sailed south into the Indian Ocean for exercises with the Royal Australian Navy, at a time when Kim was parading his military might and tested another missile. The strike group was now heading to the Western Pacific "as a prudent measure" following a "curtailed" period of training with Australia, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Commander Dave Benham said on Wednesday.

The vice president said the U.S. would honor its alliance with Pacific Rim nations and protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the sea lanes vital to global shipping where China has been staking claim to disputed territory.

The Navy said earlier that the carrier will arrive in the Korean region next week.

From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that North Korea’s latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the U.S. was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Chicago Tribune contributed.