Vice President Mike Pence told reporters aboard Air Force Two on Saturday that there is “no daylight” between the United States, South Korea and Japan in their stances on North Korea after a trip to the 2018 Winter Olympics that saw him and South Korean President Moon Jae-in take different positions on the presence of a North Korean delegation.
“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, adding that he was “encouraged” by his talks with the South Korean President.
Pence told reporters that the two leaders “spoke as friends” during his visit to South Korea, and their discussions including the meeting between Moon and the North Korean delegation, led by Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong.
The two leaders however, did not discuss North Korea’s invitation to Moon to visit Pyongyang, according to a senior administration official. The official added that Pence does not believe that the invitation dilutes the toughness of the United States pressure campaign on North Korea.
Pence and Moon took two very different diplomatic approaches to the North Korean delegation’s attendance at the games in Pyeongchang. At Friday’s opening ceremony, for example, Moon shook hands with Jong, as Pence, sitting merely feet away, looked stone faced, never acknowledging the North Korean delegation.
Moon has been a fervent advocate for opening talks with North Korea, a sentiment largely not echoed in Washington, although in a call with Moon last month, President Donald Trump “expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time.
A senior administration official said Moon did express to the vice president that he hoped there could be some potential interaction between Pence and the North Korean delegations during the games – something that did not occur.
The official added that Pence is confident that the United States, South Korea and Japan alliance will continue to be strong regardless of inter-Korean talks around the Olympics and whether or not they continue after the games.