U.S. ‘will­ing to talk’

U.S., South Korea agree on terms for more ne­go­ti­a­tions with the North

The Witness - - NEWS -

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

WASH­ING­TON — 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 pre­con­di­tions, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence said in a news­pa­per in­ter­view pub­lished on Sun­day.

Speak­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Win­ter Olympics in South Korea, Pence — who avoided any di­rect con­tact with North Korean of­fi­cials at­tend­ing the Games — said Wash­ing­ton would keep up its “max­i­mum pres­sure cam­paign” against Py­ongyang but would be open to pos­si­ble talks at the same time.

Pence’s com­ments sug­gested that the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, which has mostly taken a hard line over any po­ten­tial en­gage­ment with North Korea, might be look­ing more favourably at diplo­matic op­tions.

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

Pence was re­ported to have said he reached the new un­der­stand­ing with South Korean pres­i­dent Moon Jae­in, who has been push­ing for diplo­matic so­lu­tion to the stand­off over North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams, in two sub­stan­tive con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing his visit to South Korea.

A North Korean del­e­ga­tion, the high­est­rank­ing to visit the South, con­cluded its visit on Sun­day af­ter charm­ing and in­trigu­ing the South Korean pub­lic, but still faced deep scepticism over Py­ongyang’s sin­cer­ity towards im­prov­ing re­la­tions.

Moon gave qual­i­fied con­sent to hold­ing a fu­ture sum­mit with Kim, the first be­tween the two Koreas since 2007.

North Korea has made clear that it does not in­tend to ne­go­ti­ate away its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grammes in re­ turn for re­lief from sanc­tions.

Dur­ing Pence’s visit, Moon as­sured the vice pres­i­dent he would tell the North Kore­ans clearly that they would not get eco­nomic or diplo­matic con­ces­sions for just talk­ing, only for tak­ing con­crete steps to­ward de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion, the news­pa­per said.

Based on that as­sur­ance, Pence was cited as say­ing he felt con­fi­dent he could en­dorse post­Olympic en­gage­ment with Py­ongyang. He said the U.S., South Korea and Ja­pan were in com­plete agree­ment on iso­lat­ing North Korea over its nu­clear pro­gramme.

The White House did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

— Reuters.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Ak­wasi Frim­pong of Ghana trains for his skele­ton races at the Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchang yes­ter­day. He says of his par­tic­i­pa­tion: ‘I hope this is not just go­ing to be a one­time thing though, that we can con­tinue with this jour­ney’.

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