Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

North Korea canceled planned meeting with Mike Pence during Olympics

North Korea canceled planned meeting with Mike Pence during Olympics

While initially denying intentions to meet with the North Korean delegation, Pence's team apparently worked relentlessly hoping to break the ice with the ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.

Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers said Tuesday that North Korea had "dangled" a meeting with the USA vice president in hopes that doing so would help soften his tough stance on the country.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry had said shortly before the Games began that it had no plans to meet with U.S. officials during the delegation's visit to South Korea, according to comments carried by North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea's unification ministry said Wednesday that it was aware of the latest report by USA -based North Korea analysis website, 38 North, that North Korea's experimental light water reactor appears to be nearing completion.

Global alarm at the rapid advance of nuclear-armed North Korea's weapons technology rose further a year ago when the regime tested its Hwasong-15 ballistic missile - theoretically capable of hitting the mainland U.S. - in a challenge to Washington, which has threatened to "utterly destroy" the regime in the event of an attack. A second official said the initiative for the meeting came from South Korea, which acted as an intermediary between the two sides to set up the meeting.

The North Koreas pulled out after the US Vice President condemned human rights abuses in North Korea and announced additional economic sanctions on the country.

The White House and the vice president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Pence used his trip to repeat the U.S. denouncement of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and to announce new sanctions against the regime. Earlier, the US Vice President warned that Washington was planning to impose the "toughest and most aggressive" sanctions against Pyongyang.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert explained on Twitter that the campaign to pressure North Korea will continue until they get serious about talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

That seemed to contradict North Korea's own claim that it had no interest in meeting with Pence while he was in Pyeongchang.

Mr. Pence was seated near the North Korean leader's sister at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but they didn't acknowledge each other. About six months ago, President Trump referred to Mr. Moon's overtures to the North as "appeasement".

USA officials have continued to express an interest in dialogue with North Korea.

"The president made a decision that if they wanted to talk, we would deliver our uncompromising message". Pence's office said they believed the abrupt cancellation was a sign that USA attempts to exert pressure on the regime were working. He gave no favor to the propaganda campaign that the American press was so eager to embrace, from praising the performances of the North Korean cheerleaders, to making Kim Yo-jong into a cool celebrity.

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