North Korea cancelled meeting with Pence at Olympics: US officials

By Reuters/Matt Spetalnick   February 21, 2018 | 08:32 am GMT+7
North Korea cancelled meeting with Pence at Olympics: US officials
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attends a healthcare listening session at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. June 5, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Joshua Roberts

At the last minute.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un's sister, while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics this month but the North Koreans canceled at the last minute, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

"North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the Vice President softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics," Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement.

But after Pence condemned North Korean human rights abuses and announced plans for new economic sanctions, "they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down," Ayers said. 

Earlier the United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics engagement between South and North Korea that could lead to direct U.S. talks, but has agreed with Seoul that sanctions must be intensified to push Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

Speaking to the Washington Post on his way home from the Games, Pence said Washington would step up its "maximum pressure campaign" against Pyongyang but at the same time would be open to talks without pre-conditions.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence was quoted on Sunday as saying. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

Pence's overture, which raised again the possibility of direct talks floated previously by some Trump aides, also appeared aimed at regaining the initiative for the Trump administration after the vice president was widely seen as having been outmaneuvered in an Olympics public relations battle with Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong.

 
 
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