North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States and it showed no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles in Pyongyang.
While many believed that North Korea might attempt to test a nuclear weapon around the time of Vice President Pence's arrival and the celebration of the 150 birthday of Kim Il Sung, the nation's founder there was no nuclear test last weekend.
And now that North Korea has declared its goal to be building missiles with nuclear warheads that could hit all USA bases in Asia - and even California - the clock is running for the White House.
After a two-month policy review, the Trump administration settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement", US officials said Friday.
From two continents, Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that North Korea's latest failed missile launch was a reckless act of provocation and assured allies in Asia that the US was ready to work to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The term "reckless" is one the North Koreans have used to describe continuing large-scale US and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
Experts and former officials said shooting down a North Korean missile during a test would risk an escalation that Washington might not be able to control, which would risk potentially devastating consequences to USA allies South Korea and Japan.
North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005. It would tell disgruntled North Korean generals that the world has changed and it's time they terminated the Kim regime.
Experts predict it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States mainland within a few years. Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to President Trump's request to increase the pressure on North Korea to denuclearize. To move Beijing further toward cooperation with Washington, it is important for the U.S., Japan and South Korea to maintain a common front. "It seems Trump could be more willing to cut a deal with North Korea than Obama was", Koh said.
Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC that North Korea believed its nuclear weapons "protect" it from the threat of United States military action. It would be unwise of Japan and South Korea to deepen their rifts over historical and other issues.
However, Trump has also shown the willingness to link trade to other issues, saying he would cut a better trade deal with China if it exerts influence on North Korea.
The window for dialogue with North Korea should be kept open. Pence used the anecdote to reinforce his message that the United States and South Korea are bound by history, shared sacrifice and common values.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday the USA has "to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst" in dealing with "this unpredictable regime".
There has been heated rhetoric from both sides in recent days. "Everybody has been outplayed, they've all been outplayed by this gentleman, and we'll see what happens".
To counter Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation, we have moved USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops into Poland, the Baltic States, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper said recently that Trump is playing a "dangerous card" with his verbal threats, risking a miscalculation by Pyongyang and a war on the peninsula.
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