Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that the U.S. is now willing to engage in talks with North Korea, a 180-degree shift in tone from the cold reception Pence gave the North Korea delegation and North Korean athletes during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Pence said the U.S. is open to talks with North Korea in an interview with the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two.
Pence told the Washington Post that as long as North Korea is still working to become a nuclear power, the U.S. will not let up on the tough sanctions it has placed on the country.
Yet after meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Pence said the U.S. is now willing to sit down for diplomatic talks with North Korea, telling the Washington Post that the strategy is “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”
“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence told the Washington Post. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”
It’s unclear, however, what kind of results diplomatic talks would produce.
Pence told the Washington Post that talks alone wouldn’t lead to any changes in sanctions placed on North Korea.
In fact, Pence said Wednesday that the U.S. will soon announce new, tough sanctions on North Korea. That could stop any diplomatic talks in their tracks, as North Korea has made clear it has no plans to denuclearize.
Yet a fledgling relationship between South Korea’s Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could help facilitate diplomatic talks between Kim and the U.S.
“Moon told me at the skating rink that he told [the North Koreans], ‘You’ve got to talk to the Americans,’” Pence told the Washington Post.