- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence told U.S. troops in South Korea on Sunday that North Korea’s failed missile launch hours before his arrival was a “provocation,” and it illustrates the importance of American soldiers stationed there.

On a visit to Yongsan military base, Mr. Pence attended Easter services and then addressed troops at a fellowship dinner, saying he had spoken en route to President Trump after North Korea’s missile test.

“He told me in no uncertain terms to make sure I told all of you ‘We’re proud of you and we’re grateful for your service,’” Mr. Pence said. “This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face each and every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world.”

The North’s test firing could be seen as a message of defiance to the administration, taking place on the day that Mr. Pence arrived in Seoul for talks on North Korea.

North Korea’s missile exploded during launch Sunday seconds after it was launched from the east coast city of Sinpo during celebrations of the 105th birthday of the late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

A White House foreign policy advisor traveling with Mr. Pence said the U.S. has evaluated that the missile was not an ICBM, but probably a medium-range missile, and that it failed “after about four to five seconds” after launching from the same North Korean Navy base as another test on April 5.

“It’s a failed test, it follows another failed test,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We weren’t surprised by it, we were anticipating it. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The good news is that after five seconds it fizzled out. A medium range missile, unfortunately we’ve seen many of them.”

The U.S. hasn’t said what, if anything, it plans to do in response to the missile test. Washington is still planning to move forward with implementing a missile-defense system in South Korea, and Mr. Trump has been working closely with Chinese President Xi Jinping to pressure North Korea to scale back is nuclear weapons program.

The vice president also told the troops: “The attention that this part of the world has got from people back home is probably no surprise. Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires.”

Mr. Pence received enthusiastic applause when he told troops that under Mr. Trump, “we are going to rebuild our military.”

The vice president noted that his father, Edward J. Pence, served in the Korean War and received the Bronze Star in 1953.

“I stand before you today very moved this Easter Sunday, because one of those soldiers more than sixty years ago was my dad,” Mr. Pence told the troops.

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