Vastavam web: The United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics engagement between South and North Korea that could lead to direct U.S. talks, but has agreed with Seoul that sanctions must be intensified to push Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.With South Korea considering a rare summit with the North, Vice President Mike Pence said in a newspaper interview that Washington and Seoul had agreed, in discussions on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, on the basic terms to guide future diplomatic contacts with North Korea.
The prospect of negotiations comes after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, with U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trading insults and threats of destruction amid tightening sanctions from the United Nations.“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence was quoted on Sunday as saying. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”
Pence’s overture, which raised again the possibility of direct talks floated previously by some Trump aides, also appeared aimed at regaining the initiative for the Trump administration after the vice president was widely seen as having been outmaneuvered in an Olympics public relations battle with Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.Washington was caught off guard by the effectiveness of the North Korean propaganda campaign, U.S. officials said. “Kim ran an end run on us, and he had some success, at least in the opinion section,” one senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.But given conflicting signals in the past from Trump and his aides over diplomacy with North Korea, it remained unclear whether Pence’s remarks would mean a shift in U.S. strategy.