Pence defends strike to Latin America allies
LIMA, Peru — Thousands of miles f rom home, Vice President Mike Pence was thrust into a new, more immediate, role on the world stage Saturday: explaining President Donald Trump’s military strike in Syria to a summit of Latin America leaders.
Hours after Trump hailed the missile strike targeting the Syria’s suspected chemical weapons — tweeting, “Mission Accomplished!” — Pence defended the president while building support among U.S. allies for the joint strikes with Britain and France.
“The objective of the mission the commander in chief gave our military forces and our allies was completely accomplished — with swift professionalism,” Pence told reporters, noting there were “no reported civilian casualties.”
Later, speaking in a cavernous hall of world leaders at the Summit of the Americas, Pence expressed gratitude to Canada, Colombia and other nations that had voiced support for the strike and urged “every nation in this hemisphere of freedom” to support the military action.
Pence’s to- do list included smoothing over differences with Mexico, America’s southern neighbor, amid unease over Trump’s decision to send troops to the border and harsh rhetoric on immigration. And with tensions simmering over trade, Pence expressed hope alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the three nations could soon agree to a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement.
And while Trump grapples with the ongoing Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, Pence sought to draw a bright line against Vladimir Putin’s alliance with Syria following the suspected chemical attack. “Our message to Russia is that you’re on the wrong side of history,” Pence said.
Trump often improvises his remarks and is known for bold declarations in person and on his Twitter account. Pence, meanwhile, tends to be more scripted in his exchanges and frequently glanced down at highlighted index cards as he spoke to Latin American leaders here.
Shortly before Trump’s address to the nation Friday night, Pence was whisked away from the summit in his motorcade so he could return to his hotel to inform congressional leaders of the pending missile strikes. Pence watched Trump’s speech from his hotel suite, joined by aides.