Mike Pence tells world peace rally that U.S. must show strength in face of North Korean provocations

Former Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of world leaders and international dignitaries on Friday that there is still hope for a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis, but stressed that America must show strength in the face of rising missile tests and other provocations from Pyongyang.

“Weakness arouses evil, and a resurgence of missile tests and provocations from Pyongyang, [including] this week’s promises to shake ‘the world,’ are a testament to this truth,” Mr. Pence said, referencing North Korea’s claim in recent days to be confronting the U.S. by “‘shaking the world’ with missile tests.”

While he did not mention the Biden administration by name, Mr. Pence suggested Washington is not responding aggressively enough to a growing wave of missile tests by Pyongyang, asserting that former President Donald Trump’s diplomatic breakthrough with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proved that “peace follows strength.”

The former vice president made the remarks at a summit to promote world peace and mobilize hope behind efforts to end the North Korean nuclear crisis and the decades-old conflict between North and South Korea.

The “World Summit 2022” event was organized by the Universal Peace Federation and is bringing participants from every continent together, both virtually and at an in-person program in Seoul, where Mr. Pence was a featured speaker at an opening ceremony Friday.

Other top officials of the former Trump administration, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, were slated to address the gathering in Seoul over the weekend.

During Friday’s opening ceremony, Mr. Pence said the former administration showed that “the dream of peace on the Korean peninsula is possible.”

“Under our administration we proved to the astonishment of the world that peace is possible when America is strong,” the former vice president said. He referenced direct summits that Mr. Trump held with Mr. Kim after exerting economic and other pressure on Pyongyang in response to a surge in North Korean missile tests and nuclear provocations in 2017.

“Few people imagined that they would see the leaders of the United States and North Korea sitting down to discuss peace, but that’s exactly what happened at that historic summit in Singapore in 2018 and the summit and meetings that followed,” said Mr. Pence. “President Donald Trump showed it was possible, the nuclear testing stopped, the missile testing stopped and we began a productive dialogue for peace between our nations.”

The historic diplomacy ultimately failed to achieve a breakthrough denuclearization deal. Mr. Trump walked away from a second summit with Mr. Kim in 2019, saying the North Korean side had demanded sweeping relief from sanctions in exchange for only a limited commitment to destroy part of the nuclear arsenal it has been building for decades in violation of repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Attempts at diplomacy with the North Koreans have gone nowhere during the years since, while the Kim regime engages in increasingly brazen new missile tests.

Mr. Pence’s sobering remarks on the situation came amid speeches by a range of other prominent international figures at Friday’s opening ceremony for the World Summit, an event being hosted by Hak Ja Han Moon, the co-founder of UPF, and co-hosted by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and former U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mrs. Moon, the widow of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, is the leader of the Unification movement that grew from the Unification Church that the Rev. Moon founded in 1954 — a year after war between North and South Korea was frozen by a U.S.-backed armistice. She and her late husband devoted their lives to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and to the promotion of world peace. They founded The Washington Times in 1982.

A range of prominent political figures and current world leaders are participating in this weekend’s summit, including Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Albanian President Ilir Meta, Senegal President Macky Sall and former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr. Pence and other speakers praised the work of Mrs. Moon on Friday. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also addressed the gathering in Seoul, praised participants for coming together in the name of peace for the world and for the Korean peninsula.

“The human race will move forward to safety, to prosperity and to freedom only if good people take the time, show the courage, and get involved,” Mr. Gingrich said.

“The human race is at one of those amazing turning points, when the technology that brings us together can also be the technology that destroys us, and I think these efforts, this commitment to talk together, to bring together the kind of really remarkable groups that come from all over the world to this kind of conference, to make friendships, to go back home realizing that you have things in common that allow you to build a better future, I think all this is very, very vital,” he said. “So I want to commend everyone — both people who are here, people who are … with us virtually, and people who will, in the future, see all of this on social media.”

Mr. Pence spoke of humankind’s inexhaustible thirst for freedom, asserting that the U.S. plays a special role in promoting freedom around the world.

“In the face of such renewed belligerence from North Korea, of Russian tanks on the border of Ukraine, of China’s warplanes flying into Taiwan’s defense zone in record numbers, you can be sure of this: The American people will always stand for freedom and we will always stand with the people of the Republic of Korea,” the former vice president said.

“America will always be freedom’s greatest champion, liberty’s greatest protector and the armed forces of the United States will remain the greatest force for good the world has ever known,” he said.

“As our administration proved. … Much can be accomplished through a combination of strength and engagement,” he said. “Based on the progress that I saw under the Trump-Pence administration, I remain supremely confident that a brighter future is on the horizon, for the United States, for the people of the Korean peninsula, the Asia-Pacific and the world.”

“No oppressive regime can last forever,” Mr. Pence said. “For inside every human heart is an unquenchable fire that burns to be free. Inside every human soul is an insatiable desire for freedom.”

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