Mike Pence Lands in South Korea After North's Failed Missile Launch


U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea on Sunday to begin a 10-day trip to Asia that comes amid turmoil on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's threats to advance its nuclear and defence capabilities, and just after a failed missile launch by the North.

President Donald Trump has suggested that the USA will take a tougher stance against North Korea, telling reporters last week: "North Korea is a problem".

The test came after North Korea displayed almost 60 missiles - including what is suspected to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile - at a parade on Saturday to mark the 105th birthday of its founder Kim Il-Sung.

North Korea gave a huge show of strength with a military parade in the capital on Saturday, including the unveiling of what observers fear is a new kind of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea's actions come as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.

Pence is joined by his wife and two adult daughters and will lay a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery and join USA and South Korean troops for Easter Sunday church services and a dinner.

President Trump on Sunday questioned why he would label China a "currency manipulator" when they are working with the U.S.to deal with North Korea.

No planned response is expected from the Trump administration because the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration's initial understanding of the launch, said there was no need for the U.S.to reinforce the failure.

After a two-month policy review, officials settled on a policy dubbed "maximum pressure and engagement", USA officials said Friday.

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US Vice President Mike Pence burns incense at the Seoul National Cemetery, in South Korea.

Pence is the son of a Korean War veteran and displays his late father's Bronze Star in his office.

But a White House foreign policy adviser travelling with Pence played down Sunday's test, saying the missile - probably a medium-range one - failed after about four to five seconds.

President Donald Trump was uncharacteristically quiet about the failed launch. Pence's team also expects South Korean leadership to raise the possibility of tightening economic sanctions against North Korea and firms that do business with the country, the officials said. "The President has no further comment", US Defense Secretary James Mattis said.

Pence is the third senior government official from the Trump administration to visit South Korea, a month after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came on March 17 and two months after Secretary of Defense James Mattis came on February 2.

"It is likely that this launch is a test for a new type of missile or an upgrade so the possibility is high for further provocation in the near future", said Kim Dong-Yub, of Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

Aside from improving the technology, North Korean missile and nuclear tests are seen by outside analysts partly as efforts to bolster the domestic image of leader Kim Jong Un and apply political pressure on Seoul and Washington. He has repeatedly said if China, North Korea's dominant trading partner, is unwilling to do more to pressure the North, the USA might take the matter into its own hands.

Mr Trump has warned that North Korea is "looking for trouble" and ordered an aircraft carrier group to the area to highlight American concern. Last year, Pyongyang attempted to launch a Musudan missile on April 15, an auspicious date on which millions celebrate Kim II Sung's birthday.