Having spent two whole days assiduously avoiding the North Korean Olympic delegation in Pyeongchang, Vice President Mike Pence announced on his way home Sunday that the U.S. is now ready to engage with Pyongyang.
Pence told the Washington Post the White House will continue its “maximum pressure campaign” but it is now willing to hold direct talks with Kim Jong Un.
“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”
He added that no economic or diplomatic concessions would be granted to North Korea just for coming to the table.
Pence’s remarks followed substantive talks between the VP and South Korean president Moon Jae In, who has used the games as a platform for peace.
North Korea’s 22-person delegation was led by Kim Yo Jong, a suspected human rights abuser and the younger sister of leader Kim, who was followed intently by TV cameras.
Despite being the Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department for the murderous regime, Jong earned dubious plaudits from some U.S. media outlets, including the CNN headline: “Kim Jong-un's Sister Turns on the Charm, Taking Pence's Spotlight.”
North Korea extended an invite to Moon Saturday to attend a summit in Pyongyang later this year, potentially the first meeting between the countries’ leaders since 2007.
Pence, however, appeared indifferent to the rapprochement, and even skipped a dinner hosted by Moon prior to the opening ceremony over fear of meeting North Korea’s delegation.
Pence was forced to sit feet away from Jong during the opening ceremony Friday.
One senior administration official speaking on the flight back from PyeongChang said the vice president had not been trying to avoid the North Koreans so much as try to ignore them.
Cover image: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, wife Karen Pence and Fred Warmbier attend the Men's 1500m Short Track Speed Skating qualifying on day one of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)