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09 February 2018, 01:44 | Darnell Patrick
Pence Says US Will Soon Unveil “Toughest” Round of Sanctions on North Korea
Pence's strenuous efforts to highlight the threat from the North and its treatment of its people present a dilemma for Moon.
On the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, the US and South Korea vowed to work in tandem towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but delivered messages suggesting very different approaches in dealing with the threat of North Korea and its weapons development program.
In a massive show of force ahead of the iconic sporting event, Kim Jong-un's regime rolled out the Hwasong-15 rockets and their mobile launchers alongside some 13,000 troops.
Another protester, with a giant South Korean flag wrapped around her shoulders, said: "Don't you know what is at stake?"
But privately, officials said Pence expressed concern to Moon about his more conciliatory tone toward North Korea.
Before departing Japan for Korea earlier Thursday, Pence warned that past attempts to pursue openings with the North have been met with "wilful deception, broken promises, and endless and escalating provocations".
Aides acknowledged that the vice-president's cynical message is an unusual one for Pence, but said the circumstances warrant the tone.
"The U.S.is already opposing North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and U.N. Security Council resolutions have led to sanctions on North Korea", he said.
However, when asked on Thursday about the possibility of meetings between Pence or U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, who will attend the closing ceremonies, and Kim's sister, White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters in Washington: "There's no meetings planned whatsoever".
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The mission said the visit "will serve as a timely opportunity to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and beyond by promoting an environment conducive to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution concerning the situation on the Peninsula", according to the request seen by Reuters. They have been dubbed the "army of beauties", apparently handpicked for their looks by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un himself.
"We have no intention whatsoever to meet U.S. authorities during our visit to the South", a senior foreign ministry official was quoted as saying by the North's official KCNA news agency.
Although the U.S. had not requested talks with North Korea, Mr Pence left open the possibility of some contact.
The nuclear-armed North is on an Olympics-linked charm offensive - sending a troupe of performers, hundreds of female cheerleaders, the ceremonial head of state and even Kim's sister to South Korea.
Mr Pence has lambasted the North, announcing in Tokyo that the United States would impose its toughest sanctions to date on the regime.
Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted past year by the U.S. Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship.
"And we certainly hope to utilize this opportunity to the maximum so that the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games can become a venue that leads to dialogue for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula".
Among Pence's guests at the Winter Games will be Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier-an American student who died days after his release from detention in North Korea a year ago.
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