But for all the warnings that Trump will fix the showdown with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it's so far unclear whether at its foundation, his strategy is all that different from previous administrations - which for the last quarter century have failed to stop his nuclear march.
"If the U.S. dares opt for military action", North Korea is "ready to react to any mode of war desired by the USA", he said.
Arriving in Tokyo for talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence hailed the two countries' longstanding security ties.
"I've seen that the United States has reiterated it is willing to use political and diplomatic means to resolve this, as this is their first choice", he told reporters in Beijing.
"It's a little bit early to say just what forms things will take but we are certainly eager to increase our trade relationships with Japan and to do so in the form of an agreement", Ross said when asked about a possible FTA.
"At the same time dialogue for the sake of dialogue is valueless and it is necessary for us to exercise pressure".
Pence declared that the era of U.S. "strategic patience" in dealing with the North was over, after more than two decades.
In a sign of Beijing's hardening attitude, the Global Times, a state-run tabloid, said in an editorial on Monday that China could enforce "stricter measures" against North Korea, including a ban on oil exports, or join a US -led effort to block the North's access to worldwide financial markets.
South Korea's acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, at a meeting with top officials on Thursday, repeatedly called for the military and security ministries to maintain vigilance.
Trump has recently said that Pyongyang is a problem that "will be taken care of". The North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests in 2016, and experts predict it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA mainland within a few years.
However, Trump has also shown willingness to link trade to other issues, saying he would cut a better trade deal with China if it exerts influence on North Korea.
"Most concerning is the fact that the United States trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since Korus has come into effect".
The term "reckless" is one the North Koreans have used to describe ongoing large-scale USA and South Korean military exercises, which the North calls a dress rehearsal for an invasion.
After meeting with Abe, Pence held talks with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on a new U.S. -Japan "economic dialogue" to be led by the two.
US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, on a visit to London, said the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric separately expressed concern over rising tensions on the Korean peninsula and said the latest missile test was "troubling". But the vice president expressed impatience with the unwillingness of the North to move toward ridding itself of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
"That's a common failure mode for North Korean missiles very early on in their development cycle when they are working out the bugs in the propulsion and guidance system", the weapons expert told AFP.
Pence's Japanese hosts will likely be cautious about any USA military action that could trigger a broader regional conflict.
China made a plea for a return to negotiations.