EXCLUSIVE: Vice President Mike Pence promised in an interview with Fox News Wednesday night that the Trump administration would "continue to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure" on North Korea in response to the totalitarian nation’s ballistic and nuclear missile programs as he prepares to lead the U.S. delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The vice president also told "The Story with Martha MacCallum" that past administrations had allowed North Korea to build up its arsenal through "patience and negotiation."
"That’s unacceptable," said Pence, who admitted that the North’s weaponry "may well threaten the United States of America as we speak."
In addition to his trip to the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Pence is scheduled to meet with leaders in South Korea and Japan, as well as stop in Alaska to review intercontinental ballistic missile defense systems.
"Part of my message in going is going to be to stand with those American athletes and know that we’re cheering them and wishing them well," Pence told host Martha MacCallum. "But the underlying message is the president is sending us there to make it clear that we stand with South Korea, we stand with our allies in the region, and we will continue to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear until North Korea abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs that threaten the United States of America."
Pence also reaffirmed Trump’s statement that the administration would not approve any immigration bill that does not include money for Trump’s long-promised wall along the U.S. Mexico border.
"Look, the American people want us to build a wall," Pence said. "They want border security, they want to end the flow of illegal immigrants into this country and also illicit drugs that are tearing apart families and communities all across this country."
Democrats have pressed the president to extend the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields immigrants brought into the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. Trump ended the program this past September, giving Congress until early March to find a legislative solution.
"I think the president's been very clear. There’s no deal on DACA without a wall,” Pence said. "And … not only without a wall, Martha, but also without ending the visa lottery program and ending the kind of chain migration that has resulted in letting people into this country that have done harm to Americans in recent months," a reference to two recent terror attacks in New York City late last year.
Pence also confirmed that he would travel to the Middle East "in the coming weeks" to meet with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Pence’s visit to Israel will be the first by a high-ranking U.S. official since Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as that country’s capital late last year.
"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," Pence said. "The president said that we have recognized the obvious, we have affirmed the will of the American people, but now our hope is that we can move forward and begin to discuss those issues that can be negotiated in the hopes of achieving a lasting peace."
The vice president added that "planning is underway" to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but did not give a target date as to when the move would be completed.
"I think it will probably be several years before we cut the ribbon, but the decision is made," Pence said. "We're moving our embassy to the capital of Israel."