Pence to North Korea: 'If you want to talk, we'll talk'

Pence to North Korea: 'If you want to talk, we'll talk'
© Greg Nash

Vice President Pence in a new interview published on Sunday indicated the United States would be willing to engage in talks with North Korea without preconditions as the Trump administration seeks to pressure Pyongyang to end its nuclear program.

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

Pence, who was in Pyeongchang for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, met Saturday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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Pence said he was “encouraged” by the meeting.

“There is no daylight between the Untied States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear missile program,” Pence said following the meeting.

In his interview with the Post, Pence said he had received assurance from Moon that South Korea wouldn't offer sanctions relief or any other benefits to Pyongyang simply for being willing to talk. Instead, according to the Post interview, Moon said concessions would only be offered to North Korea if the country took clear steps toward nuclear disarmament. That pledge from Moon gave Pence the necessary assurance for the U.S. to agree to engage with North Korea in post-Olympics talks, the Post reported. 

Tensions between North and South Korea have cooled since the start of 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed a willingness to hold talks with South Korea, and athletes from each nation marched in the opening ceremony under a united flag.

The Trump administration has taken a more rigid stance on North Korea, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE periodically mocking Kim over social media and imposing harsher sanctions on the country.

Pence spoke out against North Korea in the days leading up to the Olympics, warning of the country’s efforts to control the media narrative during the competition.