US Vice-President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics this month but the North Koreans canceled at the last minute, US officials have said.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the Vice-President softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said in a statement.
But after Pence condemned North Korean human rights abuses and announced plans for new economic sanctions, “they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down,” Ayers said.
The meeting would have been the first scheduled between senior officials from the Trump administration and Pyongyang, which are in a standoff over the North’s development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States. “The President made a decision that if they wanted to talk, we would deliver our uncompromising message. If they asked for a meeting, we would meet. He also made clear that until they agreed to complete denuclearisation we weren’t going to change any of our positions or negotiate,” Ayers said.