US says era of 'strategic patience' with North Korea is over; here's a look at how the Obama doctrine changed

The war of words between North Korea and the United States continues to ratchet up. After North Korea attempted a missile launch that reportedly failed on Sunday, US vice-president Mike Pence on Monday warned the Kim Jong-un regime not to test Washington's resolve, and warned them that the era of 'strategic patience' was over.

FP Politics April 18, 2017 15:38:30 IST

The war of words between North Korea and the United States continues to ratchet up. After North Korea attempted a missile launch that reportedly failed on Sunday, US vice-president Mike Pence on Monday warned the Kim Jong-un regime not to test Washington's resolve, and warned them that the era of "strategic patience" was over.

US says era of strategic patience with North Korea is over heres a look at how the Obama doctrine changed

File image of US Vice-President Mike Pence. Reuters

The "strategic patience" doctrine, which was used by the previous Barack Obama administration, hinged on the US focusing on isolating North Korea by putting pressure on them through sanctions and waiting for them to denuclearise.

During his time in office, Obama focused on the Middle East, achieved a nuclear deal with Iran, and spoke of wanting to achieve denuclearisation. However critics accused him of ignoring Asia, especially the problem in North Korea.

The policy was officially unveiled in February 2015 by then US National Security Adviser Susan Rice, according to a report in Foreign Policy.

Rice had described the policy as America flexing its military might when it had to, but avoiding reflexive responses that could entangle it in long-term conflicts such as Vietnam.

The Obama administration summarised strategic patience as "Partnerships, with military power", and "with a long-term perspective, influencing the trajectory of major shifts in the security landscape today in order to secure our national interests in the future".

At the time, the release of the document was a push back against criticism from US lawmakers, policy experts and leading US journalists, who criticised Obama as being too slow to react to global crises and the diminished role of US as a global leader, Foreign Policy reported.

In contrast to Obama, Trump has directly taken on North Korea, recently deploying aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and an associated strike group of vessels to waters near North Korea. He also warned North Korea that "they have to behave".

The Guardian reported that Pence, on the first leg of his South Korea tour, warned Pyongyang, saying that Washington's commitment to Seoul was iron-clad, and said that "all options, including military action, were on the table in order to stop North Korea from obtaining a nuclear bomb capable of striking the US". Any use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang, he added, would be met with an "overwhelming and effective" response.

Pence also visited the Demilitarized Zone on Monday, and urged China to use its influence over North Korea to pressure the regime into abandoning its quest for nuclear weapons.

However, North Korea does not seem to be cowed. BBC reported that a senior North Korean official told them that despite growing tensions with the US and international condemnations, the Kim Jong-un regime would conduct more missile tests. "We'll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis," vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol told BBC's John Sudworth. He also warned that US military action could lead to an "all-out war," BBC reported.

With inputs from agencies

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