Vice President Mike Pence stopped at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage for about two hours Monday evening on his way to Japan and South Korea.
During his refueling stop, Pence received a private briefing with top military officials and held a nearly 15-minute-long press conference with local and national reporters, during which he praised the ballistic missile defense systems in Alaska.
"Missile defense begins here in Alaska," Pence told reporters.
"The American people and the world should know that our nation is secure, our nation's defenses from potential inbound missile attacks is the best in the world and it's because of the extraordinary personnel here, the extraordinary partnership with the state of Alaska and the ongoing commitment of the American people."
Pence's stop at the Anchorage military base is part of his trip to Japan and South Korea, where he is leading the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics.
During his trip, Pence said, he will focus on strengthening relationships with U.S. allies and rallying those allies to increase their pressure on North Korea. He reiterated Monday that whenever given the opportunity, he will share the same message: "North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions."
"I'm traveling to the Olympics with my wife and with our delegation certainly to cheer on American athletes, but also quite frankly we're traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn't use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime — a regime that oppresses its own people, a regime that threatens nations around the world, a regime that continues its headlong rush to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and uses those to threaten its neighbors and even threaten the United States of America," he said.
At Monday's press conference, Pence was accompanied by top military leaders and Gov. Bill Walker in a hangar on JBER.
"Alaska is the home of missile defense for all intents and purposes in the United States," Pence said, "particularly with regard to the rogue regime in North Korea, and Alaska's ready."
Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, is on the front lines of protecting the United States from long-range enemy rockets. It's home to more than three dozen intercontinental ballistic missile interceptors, and is expected to get even more.
The missile defense program has a 60 percent success rate, CNN reported last year.
Last year, North Korea tested a missile that some experts said was capable of reaching Alaska.
Pence on Monday praised the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump in mid-December. It allocates $699 billion to defense agencies in the coming year and calls for 20 new intercontinental ballistic missile interceptors at Fort Greely.
"We're going to continue to support the mission here in Elmendorf, we're going to continue to support the mission of Fort Greely and all over Alaska," Pence said.
"Missile defense is part and parcel of what President Trump is committed to doing to make the strongest military force in the world stronger still."
During the press conference, Karen Pence, the vice president's wife, was visiting a music therapy program on base with Walker's wife, Donna. They talked with a music therapist, service members and hospital staff, according to the White House.
"Military service members and veterans deserve opportunities to heal from injuries sustained while fighting to protect our freedoms," Karen Pence said in a statement.
After the events, the Pences were driven back to their jet and departed JBER around 7:45 p.m.