Demilitarized Zone, Republic of Korea
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for being here. It’s my great honor to represent the President of the United States here in the Demilitarized Zone. And I’m very grateful for the leadership of General Brooks and General Lee and the ironclad and immutable alliance that is represented here by these two strong military leaders.
To stand here in this place to be able to (inaudible) of the commitment of the people of the United States to our long-term alliance for the people of South Korea is a great honor for me.
And I bring greetings to our soldiers here and to soldiers of South Korea from the President of the United States. We commend them for their vigilance here along this historic frontier of freedom, and we express the resolve of the people of the United States of America to stand together in the months and years ahead with the people of South Korea to both preserve their freedom, and ensure the objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. It is an objective not just shared by the United States and the people of South Korea, but by our allies across the globe.
We are heartened by the support of allies across the Asia Pacific, including China, who will continue to advance this objective on the Korean Peninsula. And I’m here to express the resolve of the people of the United States and the President of the United States to achieve that objective through peaceable means, through negotiations, but all options are on the table as we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of South Korea for the denuclearization of this peninsula and for the long-term prosperity and freedom of the people of South Korea.
Let me say it’s also very humbling for me to be here because my father served here in Korea in the United States Army more than 64 years ago. The General favored me this morning with a few reflections on my father’s service here. And it seems altogether fitting that as Vice President I could be here to personally express the timeless bond between the people of South Korea and the people of the United States of America. People across the world should know that the bonds between our people are not simply strategic and military and economic, but they are personal, and they span generations of Americans and South Koreans.
And on that foundation, we will see freedom through. We will see the interests of the security and prosperity of the people of South Korea. And in a word, we go together.
Q Mr. Vice President, question for you. You said that everything is still on the table. Does that include a potential U.S. preemptive strike?
And secondly on China, what concrete steps did China lay out to President Trump that led him to believe that China is working very hard to put pressure on North Korea?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think President Trump and President Xi had a very frank and productive discussion about a broad range of international issues, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I know the President is hopeful that China will use its influence here on the Korean Peninsula with North Korea to achieve that objective. And we are heartened by some initial steps that China has taken in this regard, but we look for them to do more. And our hope is that we’ll be able — working with China, working with our partners here in South Korea, working with Japan and other allies across the region — to achieve this objective through peaceable means.
Q And a preemptive strike would be on the table?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As the President has made clear, we will never discuss military tactical decisions. But the President has made clear, our administration has made clear, we stand with the people of South Korea. And all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the security of the people of this country and the stability of this region.
Q Mr. Vice President, do you have a message for the people on the other side of this line?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think the message of the people of the United States of America is that we seek peace, but America has always sought peace through strength. And my message here today standing with U.S. Forces Korea, standing with courageous soldiers from the Republic of Korea is a message of resolve.
The people of North Korea, the military of North Korea should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our ally. The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad. We will fulfill that alliance for the sake of our people and the people of South Korea. And we will continue to stand strong to achieve our shared objective across this region and across the world of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Q Mr. Vice President, how is this a different policy that the Trump administration is pursuing compared to the Obama administration?
And why do you believe that you can trust China this time to follow through? Past administrations have sought help from China and they often haven’t come through?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I know President Trump is very hopeful that China will take actions necessary to bring about a change in policy in North Korea, an abandonment of its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program. We’re hopeful that they’ll use the extraordinary levers that they have and relationship they have with North Korea to achieve that objective.
But as the President has made very clear, either China will deal with this problem or the United States and our allies will.
Now with regard to a change, we have literally gone through decades — it was more than some quarter century ago that we first learned of the presence of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula in the possession of North Korea. There was an agreed framework. There was a period of strategic patience. But the era of strategic patience is over.
President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out, and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons. And also its continual use of and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable. That clarity we hope will be received in North Korea, and that they will understand that the United States of America, the people of South Korea, our allies across the region are resolved to achieve our objectives through peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary to protect the interest, the security of the people of South Korea and to bring stability to the region.