U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday told reporters there is “no daylight” between Washington and Seoul after a summit proposal from Kim Jong Un was extended to South Korean Moon Jae-in on the same day.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force Two as he returned from watching the opening of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Pence said he was encouraged by his own meeting with the South Korean president.
“There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear ballistic missile program,” Pence said in comments carried by CNN.
“I leave here very confident that we are going to continue to do the things we’ve known have to be done to continue to pressure North Korea to abandon their nuclear ambitions.”
North Korea had sent its own delegation to the Olympic Games that included Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the of the Kim family to visit the South since the 1950 – 1953 Korean War.
Kim delivered the North Korean leader’s invitation to the South Korean President for a summit in the North Korean capital at the earliest possible opportunity, though it remains unclear if Moon has accepted it.
But according to CNN, Pence and Moon did not discuss the invitation or the summit, with the Vice President instead telling reporters that he “spoke as friends” with the South Korean leader.
I’m grateful for the strong relationship between the U.S & South Korea. We’re going to stand solidly with South Korea and with all of our allies to continue to bring the maximum pressure to bear on North Korea. #VPinASIA pic.twitter.com/EfqB6yWLi0
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 10, 2018
Despite Pence’s remarks, the current administrations in Washington and Seoul have at times adopted contrasting tones when it comes to North Korea.
U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed to isolate the DPRK and threatened the country with “fire and fury”, while Moon has expressed a willingness to engage with Pyongyang.
“I am open to any form of meeting, including a summit, if these are necessary to improve inter-Korean relations and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue,” Moon told more than 200 reporters at the Blue House in January.
“But there should be conditions for the summit to take place, and the results should be guaranteed to some extent,” he added. “If conditions are met and there are hopes, I am ready to engage in the summit at any time.”
Pence did not meet with the North Korean delegation while in South Korea, and did not exchange greetings with Kim Yo Jong during the Olympic Games opening ceremony, despite being seated only a short distance apart.
Prior to his arrival in South Korea, Pence told reporters in Japan part of the reason for his visit was to counter North Korean propaganda.
“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” Pence said.
“We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.”