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Mike Pence says the U.S. is open to talks with North Korea
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Vice President Mike Pence told The Washington Post that the United States is always open to talks with the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea.
In an interview conducted en route from the Olympic Games to Washington, D.C. aboard Air Force Two, Pence told the publication that this was the stance he agreed to after several meetings he’d had with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Pressure will continue
The Vice President emphasized that diplomacy is only one facet of the United States’ all-of-the-above approach to North Korea. The U.S. will continue to exert sanctions-led pressure campaign on the regime.
“The maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify,” Pence told The Post. “But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”
That “maximum pressure” is in reference to the Trump administration’s campaign to economically isolate the North Korean regime for its advanced weapons program — specifically its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems.
“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” the vice president told The Post, calling it “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”
Pence’s comments echo language from a White House statement last month after Trump spoke with Moon. The leaders “underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea,” and Trump “expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”
President kept informed
The vice president’s stance toward the North Korean regime had the full blessing of the White House.
The Post reported:
Pence and Moon worked this out during their bilateral meeting Thursday at the Blue House and their joint viewing of speedskating heats in PyeongChang on Saturday evening. Pence conferred with President Trump every day he was in Asia. Before these meetings, the Trump and Moon administrations were not aligned on whether Seoul’s new engagement with Pyongyang should continue after the Olympics end.
That dissonance showed just before their first meeting, when Moon said he wanted Olympic engagement to lead to real negotiations while Pence talked only about the pressure track. But inside the meeting, there was a breakthrough. Pence told Moon the international community must not repeat the mistakes of the past by giving North Korea concessions in exchange for talking. Pence asked Moon for his idea of how this engagement could be different.
Moon assured the vice president that he would inform North Korea that economic pressure on the regime would not be eased until it took decisive action.
Although the United States is always open to talks, mere conversation would be insufficient.
When Pence was asked what steps North Korea would need to take to get relief from sanctions, he replied, “I don’t know. That’s why you have to have talks.”
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