Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the United States will “soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”
U.S. officials said they would impose those sanctions before the end of the Winter Olympics, which means Pence will quite possibly be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, when they go into effect.
“We will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,” Pence declared during his six-day trip to Japan and South Korea.
The Washington Examiner notes that Pence strove to send the message that the Winter Olympics will not “distract from the bellicose North Korean human rights abuses and nuclear program.” He met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss increasing pressure on North Korea.
“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” he promised. “We’ll be there to cheer our athletes, but we’ll also be there to stand with our allies, and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.”
“The United States is with you in this challenge. And we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Japan, the people of South Korea, and our allies and partners across the region until we achieve the global objective of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Pence said during his meeting with Abe.
The vice president added that “the full range of the armed forces of the United States will continue to be dedicated to the protection of Japan,” and that “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea. He is expected to make similar points to South Korean President Moon Jae-in when they meet on Thursday.
Pence said he remains open to meeting with North Korean representatives during his Olympic visit if they avail themselves of the opportunity. “I have not requested a meeting, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.
“We can not expect any meaningful dialogue with North Korea as long as they do not show genuine willingness and concrete action for the de-nuclearization,” Prime Minister Abe agreed.
The L.A. Times notes that North Korea’s Olympic delegation includes Kim Yong-nam, president of what passes for a legislature in the absolute dictatorship, and muses that even a ceremonial meeting between Pence and this “highest-level North Korean official to visit the South in years” could carry “symbolic weight.”
Neither Trump nor other administration officials offered details about what the new sanctions might entail. Reporters were told the details had to be kept under wraps to make it more difficult for the targets to devise methods of evading the new sanctions.