Vice President Pence will lead U.S. delegation to Olympics in South Korea

President Trump, with Vice President Pence by his side, speaks before a swearing-in ceremony for Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Dec. 8, 2017. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump informed South Korean President Moon Jae-in that Vice President Pence would attend the games in PyeongChang. Moon provided an update on recent talks between South Korea and North Korea, a White House statement said.

“The two leaders underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea. President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” the statement said.

Trump had said last week that he is open to U.S.-North Korean talks under the right conditions, a shift from his Twitter rhetoric in recent months that called talks a waste of time.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has worked for months to open the door for talks, arguing that direct negotiations will eventually be the key to lessening the threat of nuclear war. The U.S. goal would be “denuclearization,” jargon for getting Pyongyang to give up its weapons. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed he will not do that.

In the meantime, Moon’s government has moved to accept an overture from Kim for cross-border talks. North Korea is sending athletes and an official delegation to the games. The State Department said Tuesday that there are no plans for any meetings between U.S. officials and the North Korean delegation during the games.

Pence will also visit Alaska and Japan as part of the trip, Reuters reported. South Korea and Japan are key U.S. allies in Asia and those most affected by the risk of conflict with North Korea.

Pence’s wife, Karen, is also expected to attend the Games, which begin Feb. 9.


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