U.S. ‘willing to talk’
U.S., South Korea agree on terms for more negotiations with the North
“... 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.
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’.