Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea against testing the resolve of the United States, noting “the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready” to respond to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons by the rogue communist nation.

“The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” said Pence, speaking aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in its homeport of Yokosuka, Japan.

Pence, who traveled to South Korea and the DMZ before heading to Japan, warned any use of conventional or nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with “an overwhelming and effective American response.”

“Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response,” he said.

The vice president also noted the United States would protect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China has been staking claim to disputed territory by constructing, and militarizing, artificial islands.

The USS Ronald Reagan is one of two additional aircraft carriers, along with the USS Nimitz, set to join the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of the Korean peninsula, according to the South Korean news outlet Yonhap.

Military analysts estimate North Korea may now possess between 10 and 25 nuclear weapons, along with what the United States considers one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles, a biological weapons research program, and a robust cyber-warfare capability.

One option available to the Trump administration, should it decide to take military action against North Korea, involves conducting a strike using precision-guided munitions, launched from aircraft or naval vessels, against the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, where North Korea produces plutonium for its nuclear weapons program.

Another option would be a direct attack on the nuclear testing facilities at Punggye-ri, located in the mountainous northeastern region of the country.

North Korea, which has positioned thousands of conventional artillery pieces near the DMZ separating North and South Korea, could deal catastrophic damage to the South Korean capital of Seoul if it decided to respond to an American military action.

In addition, China has pledged to defend North Korea against any military attack under the terms of the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty of 1961.

“In the event of one of the parties being subjected to the armed attack by any state or several states together and thus being involved in a state of war, the other party shall immediately render military and other assistance by all means at its disposal,” the treaty said.

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