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The Latest: Pence says US needs ‘verifiable’ NKorea steps

Kim Jong Un, Chung Eui-yong
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on relations between the United States and North Korea (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. will not alter its stance toward North Korea without evidence of credible, verifiable and concrete steps toward denuclearization.

Pence says the U.S. will be firm in its resolve, whatever the direction of any talks with North Korea.

He says the U.S. and its allies remain committed to applying “maximum pressure” on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up his country’s nuclear weapons.

South Korea announced Tuesday that North Korea would halt nuclear weapons and missile tests and put its entire atomic arsenal up for discussion if the U.S. agrees to enter a negotiation.

Pence recently visited the region to attend the Olympics. A North Korean representative canceled a meeting with Pence at the last minute.

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10:17 a.m.

The nation’s defense intelligence chief says he’s wary of North Korea’s claim that it’s ready to negotiate on its nuclear program and will halt tests.

The South Korean government has announced North Korea agreed to stop testing nuclear weapons and missiles if it holds talks with the U.S. on denuclearization. The two Koreas also agreed to hold summit talks in late April.

Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he doesn’t share some lawmakers’ optimism about the latest development.

Ashley said: “We’ll have to see how this plays out.”

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9:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is citing “possible progress” in talks with North Korea, but says it may also be “false hope.”

Nonetheless, Trump adds that a “serious effort” is being made by all sides.

Trump commented Tuesday on Twitter after the South Korean government announced that North Korea has agreed to halt tests of nuclear weapons and missiles if it holds talks with the U.S. on denuclearization. South Korea and North Korea have also agreed to hold summit talks in late April.

Trump tweeted: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!

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