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WashPost: Secret Pence Meeting With NKorea at Olympics Cancelled at Last Minute

WashPost: Secret Pence Meeting With NKorea at Olympics Cancelled at Last Minute
Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong (back left) watch on during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 20 February 2018 08:04 PM

Vice President Mike Pence agreed to a secret meeting with North Korea while he was in the South for the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this month, but Pyongyang officials pulled out at the last minute, Chief of Staff Nick Ayers said Tuesday.

"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," Ayers told The Washington Post.

Pence had slammed Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions while visiting Asia and announced the "toughest and most aggressive" sanctions against dictator Kim Jong Un's regime, the Post reported.

"North Korea would have strongly preferred the vice president not use the world stage to call attention to those absolute facts or to display our strong alliance with those committed to the maximum pressure campaign," Ayers said.

"But as we’ve said from day one about the trip: this administration will stand in the way of Kim's desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics."

Pence's meeting was scheduled for Feb. 10, within two hours after the vice president arrived in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Ayers said.

But the North Korean delegation, headed by Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, and Kim Yong Nam, the regime’s nominal head of state, pulled out.

Ayers said the North Koreans were dissatisfied with Pence’s announcement of new sanctions as well as his meeting with defectors from the North when they canceled the meeting.

The meeting was two weeks in the making, beginning when the CIA first learned that North Korea wanted to meet with Pence when he was on the Korean Peninsula, a senior White House official told the Post.

A second official from South Korea initiated the meeting and acted as an intermediary between the two nations.

South Korean officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, the Post reports.

Pence accepted North Korea's invitation before he left for Asia on Feb. 5, but no details were final until he arrived in Seoul three days later, the White House official said.

The sides agreed to meet at the Blue House, the official residence of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in Seoul that Saturday afternoon, the official said.

No South Korean officials were scheduled to attend, the Post reports.

The Blue House was also to serve as neutral ground because it could accommodate security requirements from both countries.

Besides Pence and Ayers, others representing the United States who were to attend included a representative from the National Security Council and a representative from the intelligence community.

The North Koreans were also planning to include a third official in their group, the Post reports.

Discussions at the White House about a possible meeting with the North were "kept to a small group of senior administration officials and the plan was finalized the Friday before the vice president left during an Oval Office meeting," according to the Post.

That session also included President Donald Trump, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Ayers.

In addition, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called in, and Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were also part of the discussions, the Post reports.

Trump and Pence agreed on the objective of the meeting, two White House officials said: The vice president would meet privately with the North Koreans not to open any negotiations with Kim’s regime, but to directly deliver the administration’s tough stance against North Korea.

"The president’s view was that they need to understand what our policy is publicly and what we are saying publicly is actually what we mean," a top White House official told the Post.

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Vice President Mike Pence agreed to a secret meeting with North Korea while he was in the South for the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this month, but Pyongyang officials pulled out at the last minute, Chief of Staff Nick Ayers said Tuesday."North Korea dangled a meeting in...
pence, north korea, olympics, meeting, cancelled, last minute
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2018-04-20
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 08:04 PM
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