North Korea says no U.S. talks planned at Olympics

Other News Materials 8 February 2018 12:00 (UTC +04:00)

North Korea has no intention of meeting U.S. officials during the Winter Olympics that start in South Korea on Friday, state media reported, dampening hopes the Games will help resolve a tense standoff over the North’s nuclear weapons program, Reuters reports.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence flies into South Korea on Thursday ahead of the opening ceremony in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang, just 80 km (50 miles) from the heavily armed border with the reclusive North.

The ceremony will also be attended by a senior delegation of North Korean officials, including the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un and the North’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam.

The sister, Kim Yo Jong, and other members of her entourage will travel by private jet to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport on Friday afternoon, North Korea informed the South on Thursday.

“We have never begged for dialogue with the U.S. nor in the future, too,” the North’s KCNA news agency reported, citing Jo Yong Sam, director-general of the North American department of North Korea’s foreign ministry.

“Explicitly speaking, we have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during the stay in South Korea ... Our delegation’s visit to South Korea is only to take part in the Olympics and hail its successful holding.”

Pence said the United States had not requested talks with North Korean officials, but left open the possibility of some contact.

“But if I have any contact with them, in any context, over the next two days, my message will be the same as it was here today: North Korea needs to, once and for all, abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambition,” Pence told reporters as he left Japan.

South Korea wants to use the Olympics to re-engage with North Korea and open the way for talks to resolve one of the world’s most dangerous crises, in which U.S. President Donald Trump and Pyongyang have swapped bellicose threats of nuclear war.

Pence had said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday that Washington would soon unveil “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever”.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that China saw the Olympics as a first step towards “everyday, uninterrupted” dialogue.

All sides, not just the two Koreas, needed to work hard and dialogue between the United States and North Korea should be expanded for this to happen, Wang said.

“You can’t have it that one person opens the door and another closes it,” he said.