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Vice President Pence Says "We Have Options" In North Korea

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Vice President Mike Pence told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday that while the Trump administration is looking for a "peaceful resolution" to the North Korean crisis, the United States has many "options" to handle the ongoing threats posed by the regime. 

"What the secretaries have made clear, what the president has made clear, is we have military options but we earnestly desire a peaceable outcome that achieves what the Chinese foreign minister and I talked about yesterday. The entire world has one goal, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, we want to achieve that peaceably, but all options are on the table," said Pence. 

Pence also responded to criticism posed by former White House adviser Steve Bannon, who said in an interview that "there's no military solution" to North Korea, calling out that assessment as inaccurate. 

"There was some talk two or three weeks ago, some commentators, that the most powerful military on Earth doesn't have the ability to take action to defend our people, that's wrong," said Pence. 

He added, "The president desires a peaceful resolution of this confrontation with North Korea and we'll continue to pursue that, but it all begins when the Kim regime announces their willingness to abandon their nuclear and ballistic missiles program and not before."

He said that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons was "simply unacceptable," backing up Mr. Trump's stern warnings at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the U.S. could "destroy" North Korea if threatened. 

"The president has wanted to make it clear and he's made it clear that in the event that North Korea takes action that threatens the United States or our allies, that our response will be overwhelming and effective," Pence said.

The vice president said that he and the president will meet with their counterparts in South Korea and China at the U.N. on Thursday, to discuss possible avenues to "further isolate" the regime. 

Meanwhile, as President Trump has signaled he is prepared to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, Pence said the president would indicate that decision "at his time at his choosing." 

"I think President Trump made his view of the Iran deal very clear before United Nations General Assembly, he considers it nothing short of an embarrassment," said Pence. "The simple truth is that transferring $1.7 billion in cash to the leading state sponsor of terrorism was a terrible idea. There is technical compliance and then there's the spirit of the agreement."

While Pence reiterated the president's "deep concern" for the agreement and that he would make his opinion known at the right time, he said "at the end of the day we have to come together as a world community and demand that these rogue regimes including Iran stop the destabilizing efforts, stop supporting the terrorist activities and the president is simply determined to do that."

Pence also told "CBS This Morning" that as the special counsel's investigation now looks into documents belonging to Mr. Trump from his time in the White House as part of the growing Russia probe, the vice president maintains that he and the president are "fully cooperating" with Robert Mueller's investigation.

"The special counsel has a job to do, and we are going to keep doing our job," said Pence when pressed on the latest details of the investigation.

When asked if he felt Mueller had been exceeding his jurisdiction in the investigation, Pence reiterated, "What I can assure you is that we are fully cooperating with the special counsel and will continue to do that. During my time on the campaign, I was not aware of any contact or collusion with Russian officials and I stand by that."

He added,  "We're just going to let this process go forward, let the special counsel get answers they deserve," he pivoted however, saying that "the American people instead are "focused on the very same things President Trump is focused on, how do we make world safer and more prosperous."

Full Transcript 

CHARLIE ROSE: Vice President Mike Pence spent much of this week shuttling between United nation meetings in New York, and Capitol Hill, and Russia. He's overseeing Republican efforts to bring a new Obamacare repeal bill to a vote. Mr. Vice President, good morning. It's a pleasure to have you back on the program.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Good to be with you all.

ROSE: There's much to talk about in terms of what the president said and what you have said about Russia, but the story this morning is-- is about the Mueller investigation. And I'd like to ask you as it focuses on the president's words in the Oval Office and actions in the White House, what impact is that having on this administration?

PENCE: Well, let me assure you that as we see for the first time three Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the United States, as we see threats like North Korea and an increasing destabilizing role by Iran, as we see challenges here at home in health care and the need to move this economy forward, I can assure you President Trump and I are completely focused on the issues that matter most to the American people. And we're cooperating fully with the special counsel. We'll continue to do that. I think special counsel's got his job to do. We're gonna keep doin' our job. And-- and that's focusing on the issues that-- that the president spoke about before the U.N. and that we're working on before the Congress.

ROSE: Do-- do you believe-- the inves-- Mr. Mueller is exceeding-- his jurisdiction?

PENCE: Well, I think-- I think that's-- that's for others to say. What I can assure you is that we're fully cooperating with the special counsel. And we'll continue to do that. I've-- I've made clear that during my time on the campaign I-- I was not aware of any contacts or any collusion with Russian officials. And I stand by that. And, as I said, we'll-- we'll provide any information the special counsel requires. But, you know, honestly this is not what the American people are focused on.

ROSE: Okay. Let's focus on that. We've got some questions for you.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Just quickly though. Paul Manafort was your campaign chairman for both you and Mr. Trump. And he was reportedly offering briefings to a top Russian oligarch who has close ties with Vladimir Putin about what was going on. Was that appropriate?

PENCE: I-- you know, I've read those accounts in the newspaper. And, you know, I-- you know, Paul Manafort was on the campaign for-- at the same time I was for about a month. And so, you know, look. We're just gonna let this process go forward.

O'DONNELL: Got it.

PENCE: And we'll let the special counsel get the answers the American people deserve. But--

O'DONNELL: And you--

PENCE: But I have to be honest with you, Norah. Honestly, the American people-- as I travel around this country, the American people are focused on the very same things that President Trump is focused on every day. And that is: How do we advance our national security? How do we make the world a safer and more peaceful place? How do we make America more prosperous? And the president's gonna continue to focus.
O'DONNNELL: Well, then let's talk about that--

GAYLE KING: Yeah, let's talk about that.

O'DONNELL: On the Iran deal--

KING: --in unison here. Go ahead, Norah.

O'DONNELL: On the Iran deal, has the president has decided to decertify it?

PENCE: Well, the president said yesterday he's made a decision. And he'll--

KING: Do you know what that decision is?

PENCE: He'll-- well, he'll indicate that decision at-- at-- his time, his choosing. I know we've got a deadline in the middle of October whether we recertify the Iran deal-- before the Congress.

KING: Do you think that he should?

PENCE: I think President Trump made his view of the Iran deal very clear before the United Nations General Assembly this week. He considers it nothing short of an embarrassment. The worst one-sided deal perhaps in American history. And the simple truth is that-- that-- that transferring $1.7 billion in cash to the leading state sponsor of terrorism was a terrible idea.

ROSE: But that is not a violation of the nuclear deal.

PENCE: Well-- well, look. It's-- there's-- there is-- there is technical compliance, Charlie. And then there's the spirit of the agreement. Iran sits down with a family of nations, enters into an agreement regarding nuclear proliferation--

ROSE: Those actions by Iran--

PENCE: --but at the same time--

ROSE: --are not new. They were happening before the nuclear deal. And they've happened after the nuclear deal. The nuclear deal was to stop Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

PENCE: Right.

ROSE: That's what it's about. And decertification is the issue. Many nations have certified it, and they're urging the president to certify it.

PENCE: And I think you heard the leadership of Iran just say this week that they could restart that program very quickly, which-- which most Americans know this is only a 10-year deal. I mean-- I mean, the Iran nuclear deal, it doesn't prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In a very real sense it guarantees that they will after the time period. The president's deeply concerned about this agreement. I think he'll-- he'll make his opinion on it known at the right time. But, you know, at the end of the day we have to come together as a world community and demand that these rogue regimes including Iran stop the destabilizing effort, stop supporting terrorist activities. And the president is simply determined to do that. Just as he's determined to bring the world community together. We'll meet today with South Korea and Japan's leadership to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically.

KING: Let's talk about North Korea. Because he has-- he has said that he would-- he has vowed to totally destroy North Korea if necessary. He has also said he doesn't go to war-- he does not want to go to war. So what are the specific circumstances that would cause the president of the United States to launch a war against North Korea? What does that look like?

PENCE: The first objective of our national government is to provide for the common defense. And President Donald Trump has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. And the possession of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in the hands of a regime that routinely threatens the people of the United States of America and our allies is just simply unacceptable.

ROSE: Does the president--

PENCE: And the president needs to-- has wanted to make it clear and he's made it clear that-- that-- that in the event that North Korea takes action, that threatens the United States or our allies, that our response will be overwhelming and effective.

O'DONNELL: I think to-- to follow on Gayle's question, that-- that phrase, "Totally destroy North Korea." 'Cause as you know there are 25 million people in North Korea. And they could launch an attack that would kill 25 million plus in South Korea, including many of our soldiers that are there. Defense Secretary Mattis suggested there is a military option that exists that would-- that would save civilian casualties. What is that option? And does it-- does it have to do with kinetic options? What is it?

PENCE: Well, one of the things President Trump made clear from very early on in this administration is we never talk about our military options in detail. In-- in recent years we've-- we've seen military announcements about what we're planning to do, planning to do in Iraq, and planning to do elsewhere. Look. What-- what—what uh what the secretary's made clear, what the president's made clear is we have military options. But we earnestly desire a peaceable outcome that achieves--

ROSE: But the point I think--

PENCE: (OVERTALK) The Chinese foreign minister and I both talked about yesterday, Charlie. The entire world community has one goal. That is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We want to achieve that peaceably. But all options are on the table.

ROSE: Everyone agree-- everyone agrees on that. And they've had … votes that suggest that. The point I think that pres-- that Secretary Mattis was trying to make was that there were options that would not trigger a reaction by the North Koreans.

PENCE: Well, let-- let me just say that we have options. I mean, there was some talk two, three weeks ago by some commentators that the most powerful military on earth doesn't have the ability to take action to defend our people. That's wrong.

O'DONNELL: I think it was--

PENCE: We have military--

O'DONNELL: I think it was Steve Bannon who actually was quoted saying that. Yeah.

PENCE: We have options. But-- but let me be very clear. The-- the president desires a peaceful resolution of this confrontation with North Korea. And-- and we'll continue to pursue that. But it all begins-- when the Kim regime announces their willingness to abandon their nuclear and ballistic missiles program and not before.

ROSE: Thank you so much.

O'DONNELL: Yeah. Mr. Vice-president, thank you as always for joining us here at the table. We appreciate it.

PENCE: Good to be with you, Norah.

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