Mike Pence says US is willing to talk to N Korea as Japan warns against ‘smile diplomacy’

13-Feb-2018 Intellasia | The Telegraph | 6:00 AM Print This Post

United States vice president Mike Pence has raised the prospect of direct talks between Washington and North Korea, outlining a stance of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time”.

Pence confirmed that the US and South Korea had agreed on the terms of further diplomatic engagement with North Korea, first with Seoul before potentially leading to direct talks with Washington.

He was speaking on board Air Force Two as he flew home from the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, where he held meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in but avoided direct contact with North Korean officials.

His comments appear to mark a shift from the more hard line stance previously embraced by the US government of exerting maximum pressure on North Korea with a view to engaging directly only after Pyongyang made real concessions.

Mike Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in laugh during the ladies' 500 meters short-track speedskating in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea (AP)

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearisation,” he told the Washington Post.

“So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify.

But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.” Meanwhile, Japan warned against falling for North Korea’s so-called “smile diplomacy”, in a reference to the apparent rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang during the opening of the Winter Games.

Ms Kim appeared to transfix South Korean media, which quickly dubbed her “North Korea’s Ivanka” and she was captured on camera with a near-permanent smile but without speaking a word in public.

However, Taro Kono, Japan’s foreign minister, urged the world to remember that North Korea remained committed to its internationally-opposed nuclear and missile development programme.

Speaking in Brunei one day after meeting Moon and Ms Kim, he told Kyodo news agency: “Without being swayed by [North Korea's] smile diplomacy, Japan will firmly coordinate with [the US and South Korea] towards the ultimate goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.”

He added that North Korea had conducted a military parade “on the eve of the opening of its Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as if to show off its missiles. Its intention regarding nuclear and missiles development has not changed”.

His remarks appear to reflect Japan’s increasing discomfort over Seoul’s conciliatory stance with Pyongyang, amid fears it could destabilise trilateral cooperation with the US to increase pressure on the regime.




Category: Korea

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