WASHINGTON -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday drew the line between talks and negotiations with North Korea, saying President Donald Trump "believes in" the former.
In an interview with Axios, Pence said Trump "always believes in talking (with North Korea), but talking is not negotiating."
His remark appears to leave open the possibility of a preliminary dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang that would set the tone for any future negotiations over the communist regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Still, Pence said nothing will change until the North abandons its nuclear ambitions, and the U.S. and the international community will "consider any change in posture" only when the regime "completely, verifiably and completely" discards its missile programs.
The U.S. has led a "maximum pressure" campaign to increase economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea until the regime comes forward to discuss its denuclearization.
Pence told The Washington Post last week that the campaign will intensify, but "if you want to talk, we'll talk." It was widely interpreted as the U.S. easing conditions for talks after insisting the North first show a commitment to denuclearize.
Tensions have eased somewhat between the two Koreas with the North's surprise participation in the Winter Olympics currently under way in PyeongChang. Pence led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony last week, where he was seated directly in front of the North Korean leader's sister, Kim Yo-jong.
"I didn't avoid the dictator's sister, but I did ignore her,"
Pence told Axios. "I didn't believe it was proper for the USA to give her any attention in that forum."
He also called the North "the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," which is "nothing short of a prison state."
Pence warned the North of U.S. military capabilities.
"The United States has viable military options to deal with the threat of nuclear and ballistic missiles from North Korea," he said. "We want to exhaust every opportunity to make sure North Korea understands our intentions and the seriousness of the USA and our allies." (Yonhap)