Mike Pence keeps heat on North Korea in meetings with South Korea and Japan’s leaders for 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

South Korea — Vice President Pence is using his appearance at the Winter Olympics to call on the international community to take a tougher stance on North Korea‘s nuclear program and human rights abuses. 

He arrived Friday in Pyeongchang to cheer on American athletes, but Pence said he was warning the world against falling for the glossy image of the two Koreas as they are set to march in the opening ceremony under one flag.

After meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence said there should be no consideration of using the games as an opening for substantive talks with the North until its nuclear program is put on the table in negotiations. 

Pence said the U.S. would “demand at the outset of any new dialogue or negotiations that the Kim regime put denuclearization on the table and take concrete steps with the world community to dismantle, permanently and irreversibly, their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

“Then and only then will the world community consider negotiating and making changes in the sanctions regime that’s placed on them today,” he added. 

Pence, who was to lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies Friday evening, has pressed the South Korean president to take a more cautious approach toward his nuclear-armed neighbor to the north. Moon has looked at the games as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with North Korea — a move the vice president cautioned against.  

Pence has avoided public criticism of Moon, congratulating South Korea on hosting the games and pledging continued support in addressing the North’s nuclear threat. But privately, officials said, Pence expressed his concern to Moon about the more conciliatory tone toward the Kim regime.

After meeting with Moon, Pence said the U.S. and South Korea remained “completely aligned.”

The three leaders met Thursday afternoon for a reception ahead of the opening ceremonies. U.S. journalists were briefly let into a…

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