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Pence planned to meet North Koreans at Olympics, but Pyongyang canceled

Pence planned to meet North Koreans at Olympics, but Pyongyang canceled

The incident comes as global attention is focused on North Korea's participation in the ongoing Winter Olympics hosted by the South, in a diplomatic push by Kim Jong-un's isolated regime. "We regret their failure to seize this opportunity", she said in a statement.

"Perhaps that's why they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never honest about sitting down", said Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers.

He continued, saying North Korea had a "desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics".

Had the North Koreans accepted the invitation for talks, the meeting would have likely overlapped with talks between the North Koreans and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Mr. Pence's meeting with the North Koreans was to occur after the vice president had warned that the country was about to face the "toughest and most aggressive" set of United States sanctions yet, though he did not detail what those would be.

Mr. Pence was ready to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the Communist country's nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam. Indeed, he has not sought renewal of the single most important piece of US legislation on the issue, the North Korean Human Rights Act, which had been renewed by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Asked when the two countries will hold the postponed drill, Song Young-moo told parliament he and his USA counterpart, Jim Mattis, would make an announcement between March 18 and the start of April.

Pence attended the Olympics Opening Ceremony on February 9 as part of a five-day trip to Asia and was seated near Kim Jong-un's sister, but did not speak to her, creating a media sensation.

The Vice President was due to meet Kim Jong Un's sister at the Winter Olympics, but the U.S. claims Pyongyang abruptly pulled out.

Mintaro Oba, a former State Department diplomat specializing in the Koreas, tweeted that "it's entirely possible that North Korea scheduled the reported secret meeting with VP Pence fully intending to cancel so that they could play the blame game". "I'm suspicious of North Korea wanting to join with South Korea after so many years of trying to hurt them". Seoul's government sees the almost 150 million US dollar restoration project as being important for the unification and joint prosperity of South and North Korea.

But according to officials, North Korea cancelled at the last minute. It's plausible that, contrary to the logic that maximum pressure will force concessions, the North's new constraints could persuade Kim that he needs to demonstrate his own resolve and preemptively remind the United States and its allies just how costly an attempt at forced denuclearization or regime change would be. "I don't think they can but they will do that until the games are over", the former diplomat said.

They were particularly vocal when North Korean players joined South Koreans in a unified women's ice hockey team, the first joint North-South team to compete at any Olympics.

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