HONOLULU — Vice-President Mike Pence ended his trip to Asia on Monday with a thanks to U.S. service members based in Hawaii and promises of robust military spending under President Donald Trump.
Pence sat with troops for lunch at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and noted the president's push for increased military spending at a time when the U.S. faces threats in the Asia-Pacific posed by North Korea.
The vice-president said he wanted to assure military members that "in these uncertain times, people who serve here at U.S. Pacific Command will know that in your commander-in-chief, you have a president who is going to fight to rebuild our military."
Pence wrapped up a 10-day trip to Asia that included a visit to the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, consultations with leaders in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, and a quick stop to see troops in American Samoa.
The United States' efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear and weapons programs dominated the trip, which put Pence in Asia shortly after Kim Jong Un's regime unsuccessfully launched a ballistic missile.
For Pence, the trip offered evidence that the former governor has become one of President Donald Trump's chief emissaries on the world stage, patching up relations, reassuring allies still wondering what to expect from Trump and diving into international crises like North Korea.
During the trip, Pence delivered North Korea a stern warning: that "all options are on the table" when it comes to curbing the North's nuclear ambitions. He told foreign leaders the Trump administration would seek support from its allies to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Pence's early foreign travel schedule has contrasted sharply with a mostly homebound Trump, who is not scheduled to travel overseas until late May for NATO meetings in Belgium and a gathering of the Group of Seven major industrial nations in Italy. Pence partly covered that ground when he visited Germany and Belgium in February.
Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, had visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, checking in with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany. The last first-term president to wait until May to take his first foreign trip was Jimmy Carter in 1977.
Pence postponed a visit to the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday to return to Washington for what's expected to be a busy week on Capitol Hill with the threat of a government shutdown if there's no agreement on spending priorities.
Trump has pushed for a large increase in military spending and Pence noted during the lunch that he would be returning to Washington to work on a supplemental Pentagon funding package. The plan, while still subject to negotiations, could top $15 billion.
"The president truly believes that the time has come for us to rebuild this military," Pence said.
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Ken Thomas, The Associated Press