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US tells Kim Jong-un it has run out of patience over weapons build-up

By Ken Thomas

US vice President Mike Pence has warned North Korea the "era of strategic patience is over" as he visited the Korean Demilitarised Zone within 24 hours of Pyongyang's failed missile test.

Mr Pence made the unannounced visit at the start of his 10-day trip to Asia in a US show of force that allowed the Vice President to gaze at North Korean soldiers from afar and stare directly across a border marked by razor wire.

As the bomber jacket-clad Mr Pence was briefed near the military demarcation line, two North Korean soldiers watched from a short distance away, one taking multiple photographs of the American visitor.

Mr Pence told reporters near the DMZ that President Donald Trump was hopeful that China would use its "extraordinary levers" to pressure North Korea to abandon its weapons programme, but he expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the regime to move towards ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Pointing to the quarter-century since the United States first confronted North Korea over its attempts to build nuclear weapons, the Vice President said a period of patience had followed.

"But the era of strategic patience is over," Mr Pence declared. "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 and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable."

Later, Mr Pence said in a joint statement, alongside South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, that the United States' commitment to its ally is "iron-clad and immutable".

Mr Pence reiterated that "all options are on the table" and said any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang would be met with "an overwhelming and effective response".

Pointing to Mr Trump's recent military actions in Syria and Afghanistan, Mr Pence said North Korea "would do well not to test his resolve".

The Vice President earlier visited a military installation near the DMZ, Camp Bonifas, for a briefing with military leaders. He also met with American troops stationed at the joint US-South Korean military camp.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace. But dialogue for the sake of having dialogue is meaningless."

He added that "we need to apply pressure on North Korea, so they seriously respond to a dialogue" with the international community, urging China and Russia to play more constructive roles on the issue.

Mr Pence's visit came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula. While the North did not conduct a nuclear test, the spectre of a potential test and an escalated US response has followed Mr Pence as he undertakes his Asian tour.

Mr Trump wrote on Sunday on Twitter that China was working with the United States on "the North Korea problem".

His national security adviser HR McMaster said the US would rely on its allies as well as Chinese leadership to resolve the issues with North Korea.

Mr McMaster cited Mr Trump's recent decision to order missile strikes in Syria after a chemical attack blamed on the Assad regime as a sign that the President "is clearly comfortable making tough decisions".

But Mr McMaster said "it's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully".

Mr Pence told reporters the North Korean people and military "should not mistake the resolve of the United States of America to stand with our allies".

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