US Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview published Sunday that Washington has agreed on terms for future talks with North Korea. The breakthrough understanding followed several meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week. Pence emphasized that “maximum pressure” would still be placed on Pyongyang.

Vice President Pence

Vice President Pence Photo Credit: EPA-EFE

The US may be open to diplomatic engagement with North Korea without preconditions, as a recent understanding was reportedly reached between Washington and South Korean officials last week. US Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview while aboard Air Force Two that the White House had agreed to terms of engagement with the isolated dictatorship during meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

In the interview with the Washington Post published on Sunday, Pence said the US agreed that diplomatic talks with North Korea would first be conducted by Seoul, after which direct talks with Washington may follow. The vice president emphasized the US’ stance on maintaining the current pressure on Pyongyang and called the strategy “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

During the meetings in South Korea, Moon assured Pence he would tell Pyongyang that talks alone would not result in economic or diplomatic benefits for the dictatorship, only steps towards denuclearization. “I think it is different from the last 20 years,” Pence explained.

As previously reported by JOL, after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, Pence announced that Washington will soon present the “toughest and most aggressive” economic sanctions on North Korea. As the 2018 Winter Olympics took off, Pence also warned that the actions of the North Korean delegation will be monitored.

“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” he 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.”