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Saturday 23 June 2018

Pence refuses to rule out North Korea meeting at Olympics

As he began a six-day visit to Asia, the US vice president said North Korea “must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons programme”.

Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive in Japan (AP)
Mike Pence and his wife Karen arrive in Japan (AP)

By Zeke Miller

US vice president Mike Pence said he has not ruled out the possibility of meeting with North Korean officials at the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.

Before he arrived in Japan at the start of a six-day trip to Asia, Mr Pence said: “Let me say President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meeting. But we’ll see what happens.”

Mr Pence will meet Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and US service members on the first day of his trip.

A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the Pyeongchang Games. Mr Pence said no plans have been made for him to meet with any members of the North Korean delegation.

North Korea is sending its nominal head of state, Kim Jong Nam — the highest-level visitor to the South from the North in recent memory.

Mr Pence said his message, if he met any officials from the North, would be the same as it has been in public: “And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons programme and ballistic missile ambitions.”

The vice president said he aims to ensure North Korea does not “hijack” the games as it participates on a joint team with the South, in the view of the White House.

He will hold symbolic events of his own to highlight the North’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions, according to White House officials.

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Mr Pence is starting his six-day tour in Japan, where he will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (AP)

In South Korea, Mr Pence will visit a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North, and hold meetings with President Moon Jae-in.

Leading the US delegation to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Mr Pence will be accompanied by Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, the US student who died in 2017 shortly after he was released from North Korean detention.

“He & his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea,” Mr Pence tweeted.

Press Association

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