Pence raises prospect of U.S-North Korea talks, Seoul seeks to lower tensions
The United States may be looking more favorably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea, possibly holding dialogue, as South Korea pushes forward with plans to establish grounds for a rare summit between the two Koreas, Reuters reports.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a newspaper interview the United States and South Korea have agreed on terms for further diplomatic engagement with North Korea, first with Seoul and then possibly leading to direct talks with Washington without pre-conditions.
The prospect of talks comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threats amid tightening sanctions from the United Nations.
Relations between the two Koreas improved in recent weeks, with Pyongyang agreeing to send its highest ranking delegation ever to attend the Winter Olympic Games, being held in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang.
Speaking to the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Games, Pence said Washington would keep up its “maximum pressure campaign” against Pyongyang but would be open to possible talks at the same time.
“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 had traveled to the Olympics to counter what Washington said was the North’s crude attempts to hijack the Games with a propaganda campaign.