U.S. warns North Korea, may launch preemptive strike

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the U.S. “or the strength of our military forces,” following a failed North Korean missile test.

Speaking in Seoul, Pence linked recent U.S. military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan with the situation in Korea, saying they showed the “strength and resolve of our new president.”

“We will defeat any attack and we will meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response,” Pence said, adding that when it came to North Korea “all options are on the table.”

Tensions on the peninsula have ratcheted up in recent weeks, amid tit-for-tat saber-rattling from the U.S. and North Korea and analysts’ warnings that North Korea was preparing for a sixth nuclear test.

Amid concerns the U.S. might launch a preemptive strike on North Korea, Pence said Washington would “closely consult” with Seoul “as we make decisions moving forward.”

Earlier in the day, Pence visited the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ), which he described as the “frontier of freedom.”

The DMZ is the highly-fortified de facto border between North and South Korea.

It’s four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide, stretches 250 kilometers (160 miles) and is dotted with military guard posts, mines and defensive structures.

It was established by the 1953 armistice agreement which ended the Korean War, though both sides technically remain at conflict as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

At the Panmunjom Joint Security Area, which Pence visited Monday, North and South Korean soldiers stand watch feet away from each other, the only place where the two forces come face to face.

Blue huts straddle the border, where tense negotiations have been held between the North, South and the U.S. since armistice.

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