US Vice President Mike Pence was set to meet senior North Korean officials during his visit to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, however according to new reports Pyongyang pulled out of the meeting just hours before it was due to go ahead.
The meeting with the North Korean delegation, which included Kim Yo Jong, the youngest sister of leader Kim Jong Un and North Korea’s nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, would have been the first official contact between the two countries since Donald Trump took office.
“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.
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CNN reports that Trump gave the meeting a green light, “with the caveat that the United States wouldn’t back off its stated demand that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons.”
According to the Washington Post, the cancellation of the meeting came after Pence again publicly denounced Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and announced the “toughest and most aggressive” sanctions against the regime.
Pence’s office has since said that the cancellation of the meeting was an indication of the success of the Vice President’s effort to combat North Korea’s plan to use the Winter Games for propaganda purposes.
The Los Angeles Times says that the meeting between Pence and the North Koreans was “not intended to serve as any sort of de-escalation of the administration's stance against North Korea,” citing a senior White House official.
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