MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — Vice President Mike Pence, in a visit to one of America’s most potent nuclear bases, vowed Friday that the U.S. will keep up economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
With a huge B-52 bomber looming in the background, Pence told some 250 airmen at Minot Air Force Base that “there is no greater force for peace in this world” than the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, we will make sure that our nuclear deterrent is stronger than ever before — modern, robust, flexible, resilient, and ready to confront any and all enemies of peace with a rapid, effective and overwhelming response,” Pence said.
Pence touched only briefly on North Korea, spending much of his speech thanking the airmen of the only U.S. base capable of nuclear strikes by both plane and missile. Minot has one of the nation’s two B-52 bomber bases. The base also oversees 150 of the Air Force’s 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles.
Pence got a mission briefing that included various aspects of military preparedness, including nuclear, along with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and commanders of the base’s missile and bomb wings. Pence also inspected a B-52 and visited a missile launch facility.
His visit came six weeks after Defense Secretary James Mattis did the same in a tour widely seen as aimed at reminding North Korea of U.S. powers.
Pence has been meeting with top intelligence agencies in recent months and has received highly classified briefings with the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Director of National Intelligence and other intelligence agencies.
Trump’s administration has sought to increase pressure on North Korea through U.N. Security Council sanctions and other diplomatic efforts, but North Korea hasn’t budged from its goal of building a full-fledged nuclear arsenal, including missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
Separately on Friday, Mattis was visiting the Demilitarized Zone that separates North Korea from South Korea. Mattis accused North Korea of threatening global order and said the Trump administration remains committed to compelling the North to accept complete nuclear disarmament.
On Thursday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and organizations over human rights abuses and censorship. A rare military exercise involving three of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier strike groups is being planned for next month in the Asia Pacific.
Associated Press writer Blake Nicholson contributed to this report from Bismarck.