US Vice President, Mike Pence, and his delegation was stood up by North Korean officials just a few hours before secret talks were due to take place in South Korea. Both delegations were in South Korea for the Winter Olympics ceremony.
According to White House sources, a meeting between the delegations had been in the works for two weeks. The meet-up in South Korea would have been the first between senior officials from the Trump administration and Pyongyang. Tensions between the two countries have been boiling hot, due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons that threaten the US mainland.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice-president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” said Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers.
President Trump had agreed for the meeting to take place, with the caveat that the US would continue to pressure North Korea to shut down its nuclear weapons program.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, sent a delegation made up of athletes, cheerleaders, domestic media, and high-ranking officials. However, the main person of interest in Pyongyang’s 500-people delegation was Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is the head of the country’s propaganda department. Alongside her was also Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s ceremonial head of state.
The closest that Pence and Jong Un got was at the Winter Games’ opening ceremony, where the vice president and his wife were seated a few feet away from the leader’s sister and Kim Yong Nam. The meeting was due a day later on February 10 at the Blue House in Seoul, the South Korea equivalent to the White House.
Upon his return to the United States, Pence said that he ignored Kim Yo Jong on purpose while at the Opening Ceremonies because of Kim Yo Jong’s position within the government of North Korea.
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