Washington, United States: US Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics this month but the North Koreans cancelled at the last minute, US officials said on Tuesday.
“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 in a statement.
But after Pence condemned North Korean human rights abuses and announced plans for new economic sanctions, “they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down,” Ayers said.
Pence was going to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, but the North Koreans called off the 10 February meeting two hours before it was set to start, a US official said, confirming a story first reported by the Washington Post.
The encounter would have been the first scheduled between senior officials from the Trump administration and Pyongyang, which are in a standoff over the North’s development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.
“This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics. Perhaps that’s why they walked away from a meeting or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down,” Ayers said in the statement.
Pence had criticized Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and announced the “toughest and most aggressive” sanctions against Pyongyang yet, while also moving to strengthen the US alliance with Japan and South Korea.
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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2018 21:14:57 IST