SEOUL, Feb. 12 (UPI) — Amid South Korea’s efforts to promote dialogue between the United States and North Korea, U.S Vice President Mike Pence reportedly signaled that Washington is ready for talks, marking a notable change of stance.
According to Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, Pence told him the U.S. could engage in dialogue after two substantive conversations with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in last week.
During his trip to South Korea to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony, Pence said he and Moon agreed further engagement would first be initiated with South Korea, and “potentially with the United States soon thereafter.”
Rogin said that the proposed course of diplomacy signifies that the U.S. and its allies will not stop imposing pressure on Pyongyang until it takes clear steps toward denuclearization but the Trump administration is willing to sit down and talk with the regime while that pressure campaign is ongoing.
The columnist noted this marked an important shift from the previous U.S. stance, “which was to build maximum pressure until Pyongyang made real concessions and only then to engage directly with the regime.”
The South Korean leader is said to have assured Pence he would clearly tell Pyongyang it would not get economic or diplomatic benefits “for just talking” and “only concrete steps toward denuclearization” could reap such benefits.
Based on that assurance, Pence told Rogin he felt confident he could endorse post-Olympic engagement with the North.
This came as U.S. State Department spokesman Michael Cavey on Sunday said Washington supports South Korea’s efforts to procure dialogue between the U.S. and the North.
He said such talks must include the issue of denuclearization, the Voice of America reported.
On Monday, a South Korean official said Seoul will aim to pave the way for U.S-North Korea talks, based on the improvement of inter-Korean relations.
While the North Korean high-level delegation’s visit to the South last week marked a starting point for the peaceful resolution of issues on the Korean peninsula, the official said there hadn’t been progress on the denuclearization agenda.
He added that follow-up measures will depend on the course of talks between Washington and Pyongyang, Yonhap reported.