Pence: I didn't avoid Kim Jong Un's sister, but I ignored her

Vice President Pence on Wednesday said that he ignored Kim Jong Un’s sister during last week’s opening ceremonies at the Winter Olympics to send a message that the U.S. would stand up to North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights record.

“I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her. I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any countenance or attention in that forum to someone who’s not merely the sister of the dictator, but is the leader of the propaganda effort,” Pence said at an Axios event.

Pence and Kim Yo Jong attended the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and were seated just feet away from one another. However, neither acknowledged the other.

A number of media outlets, including CNN and Reuters, faced criticism for their favorable coverage of Kim's visit to the games. Some deemed her appearance a diplomatic success for North Korea, where she serves as head of propaganda and agitation for Kim Jong Un.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pence on Wednesday said Kim Yo Jong works for a government that represents "evil the likes of which we have witnessed rarely," noting Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the murder of his family members and is guilty of human rights violations.

“I wanted to send by my silence a very clear message: that the people of the United States of America know who we’re dealing with, and that we’re going to continue to stand firmly and stand strong with resolve and with our allies until the regime in North Korea ceases to threaten our country and our allies with nuclear and ballistic missiles,” Pence said.

“And we will continue to hold them to account on their appalling record of abuse of human rights of their own people,” he added.

Pence said in an interview published Sunday that the U.S. would be willing to talk with North Korea without preconditions while maintaining pressure on the regime to end its nuclear program.

“So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk,” he said.