North Korea calls off meeting with Mike Pence 'at the last minute,' White House says

North Korea calls off meeting with Mike Pence 'at the last minute,' White House says
From CBC - February 20, 2018

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence was all set to hold a history-making meeting with North Korean officials during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but Kim Jong-un's government cancelled at the last minute, the Trump administration said Tuesday.

A potential meeting between Pence and the North Koreans had been the most highly anticipated moment of the vice-president's visit to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where he led the U.S delegation to the opening ceremonies. Ahead of Pence's visit, Trump officials had insisted they'd requested no meeting with North Korea, but notably left open the possibility one could occur.

There was no indication that a meeting had indeed been plannedand then cancelled on short noticeuntil Tuesday, more than a week after Pence returned to the United States. The State Department said that Pence had been "ready to take this opportunity" but would have used it to insist Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

"At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting," said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, using an abbreviation of the North's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "We regret their failure to seize this opportunity."

A Trump administration official said the U.S. had expected the meeting to occur Feb. 10, the last day of Pence's three-day visit to the Olympic Games. The administration did not say exactly how much notice it received from North Korea that the meeting had been called off, nor where the meeting would have taken place or under what conditions.

Nor was it immediately clear whether North Korea scheduled the meeting before the vice-president arrived in South Korea or after he had already arrived. The day before landing in Pyeongchang, Pence told reporters that "we have not requested a meeting with North Korea."

"But if I have any contact with themin any contextover the next two days, my message will be the same as it was here today: North Korea needs to once and for all abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions," Pence said.

North Korea had no immediate response to the news out of Washington. But North Korean officials had said previously that they had no interest or intention of meeting with Pence in Pyeongchang during the games.


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