Pence aims to reassure allies amid North Korea threat

To this end, Pence will meet with the acting President of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-ahn, to reinforce the United States commitment to consult with South Korea over North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

During a meeting at the White House on Thursday, Trump said that North Korea "is a problem" that will be "taken care of".

Kim's regime has test-fired ballistic missiles five times this year in his quest to develop a device that can carry a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S. He's launched dozens of projectiles and conducted three nuclear tests since coming to power after his father's death in 2011, and claimed in January to be nearly ready to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A short while after the launch, a statement from the U.S. Pacific Command said the missile blew up nearly immediately and that its type was still being assessed.

The South Korean military said it is closely monitoring any development from across the border, assessing the North is capable of detonating a device at the northern or southern portals of the Punggye-ri nuclear complex.

But he will no doubt address worries in Washington that any new government may slow-walk the deployment of THAAD - a system created to shoot down missiles from North Korea or elsewhere.

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Pence's visit, full of Cold War symbolism, came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula.

Pence's Seoul stop kicks off a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia - his first as vice president - and comes amid concerns that Pyongyang could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test. "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".

Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. were already on a knife-edge over the posting of the strike group led by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the region - a move that was denounced by North Korea.

The North has a habit of test-firing missiles to mark major dates such as Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Il-Sung, or as gestures of defiance when top USA officials visit the region.

Asked about North Korea this past week, he told reporters: "North Korea is a problem".

Trump campaigned on an "America First" trade policy, complaining that trade partners in Asia and elsewhere had taken advantage of the United States.

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And while Tillerson appeared Wednesday before reporters with Lavrov, he met beforehand for roughly two hours with Putin himself. Tillerson is on a thus-far-futile mission to persuade Putin to abandon support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The new and USA 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. But he once again stressed the gravity of the North Korean nuclear issues, expressing confidence Chinese President Xi Jinping will work to resolve them.

Speculation has been rising that the United States may be preparing to launch a pre-emptive strike against the North, in particular since its strike on Syria and the strike group's diversion last week.

Later Monday, Pence reiterated in a joint statement alongside South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn that "all options are on the table" to deal with threat and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with "an overwhelming and effective response". "We will see what happens!"

The issue has been complicated by China's furious opposition to the prospect of having a high-tech radar system on its doorstep, fearing it could partially neutralize its nuclear deterrent.

That commitment, aides say, will be underscored by Pence's very personal ties to South Korea. After arriving in the South Korean capital, he placed a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery and then worshipped with military personnel at an Easter church service at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. Analysts have said commercial satellite images from recent weeks indicate increased activity around the nuclear test site in northern North Korea.

Along with the deployment of the USA aircraft carrier and other vessels into waters off the Korean Peninsula, thousands of US and South Korean troops, tanks and other weaponry were deployed last month in their biggest joint military exercises.

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The North regularly launches short-range missiles, but is also developing mid-range and long-range missiles meant to target US troops in Asia and, eventually, the USA mainland.

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