Pence’s four-nation tour of Asia, which will take him also to Japan, Indonesia and Australia, is meant to both remind America’s Pacific allies where we’ve come from and let them know that the United States under Trump has a clear sense and firm commitment to where we are going. There’s no doubt that reassurance is both badly needed and welcomed, given the confusion foreign partners have about the Trump administration.
Vice-President Mike Pence could not have known when he took off from Joint Base Andrews Saturday morning that by the time he landed here in South Korea, the North Korean regime would have fired off yet another missile, raising tensions on the peninsula to almost unprecedented levels. But his response to the incident was on par with his rising role as the Trump administration’s unofficial secretary of reassurance.
On the plane ride over, shortly after taking off from our refuelling stop in Alaska, Pence was informed that the Pyongyang regime had fired off what appeared to be a medium-range missile that exploded only seconds after leaving the launch pad. A White House foreign policy adviser came to the back of the plane to brief reporters on the planned response; since the test was a failure, no response was needed, the adviser said.
“For this particular case if they took the time and energy to launch a missile that failed we don’t need to expend any resources against that,” the adviser said, adding that if the test had been successful or if it had been a nuclear detonation, the U.S. government had a robust response plan at the ready.