Pence visits DMZ amid high tensions with North Korea


US Vice President Mike Pence visited the Korean demilitarized zone Monday, a day after the embarrassing failure of a North Korean missile test which the US and South Korea said exploded on launch.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have soared in recent weeks, as a series of North Korean missile tests have wrought ever-more bellicose warnings from Donald Trump's administration.

"There is no change in the basic position of South Korea and the United States to proceed, as planned, with the preparations for the early operation of the Thaad system against North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats", Moon Sang Gyun, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, said at a news briefing Monday morning, according to local reports.

But at the same time, HR McMaster said: "It's time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully".

US Vice President Mike Pence (C) visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on April 17, 2017.

The latest launch - which failed when the missile blew up seconds after blast off - came a day after the North held a defiant massive military parade in Pyongyang showcasing almost 60 missiles - including a suspected new intercontinental ballistic missile.

A USA aircraft carrier strike group is en route to South Korea, with President Donald Trump calling on a near daily basis for Beijing to more squeeze Pyongyang to change course.

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The head of a powerful Washington committee which oversees the American military has downplayed suggestions the USA used cyber warfare to sabotage a North Korean missile test.

Pyongyang doesn't hide its attempts to develop missiles capable of reaching USA soil and constantly says that its nuclear and ballistic programs are in response to U.S. threats.

The relations between the United States and Russian Federation have reached the lowest point, so they can only improve, McMaster said. Exhibit A is his recent engagement with China over North Korea's nuclear missile program.

Experts believe that North Korea would need two years to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, adding that the fact the Pyongyang owns ballistic missiles that can be launched from submarine will enhance its nuclear deterrence capabilities.

Abe, speaking to a parliamentary session Monday following North Korea's massive military parade and botched missile launch, said: "Needless to say, diplomatic effort is important to maintain peace".

North Korea attempted a show of military strength over the weekend.

"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" he said.

Pence Visits Demilitarized Zone Between North and South Korea
Despite the dangers of crossing the landmine and barbed-wire strewn DMZ, several North Korean soldiers have defected in this way. North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

This past week, it was the opposite message, as the USA and Russian Federation feuded about Syria.

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

Pyongyang has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions, and regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and the United States.

China reiterated on Monday its opposition to the deployment of a sophisticated US anti-missile system in South Korea.

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

USA officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturising a nuclear warhead.

The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the United States mainland, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturizing a nuclear warhead.

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