WASHINGTON -- US Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday he would be open to meeting with North Korean officials in South Korea, although he would have to "wait and see."
Pence was speaking to reporters before leaving Japan en route to South Korea, where he will lead the US official delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
"There may be a possibility for any kind of an encounter with North Koreans, whether it be informal or whether it take the form of a meeting," the vice president said. "As I said, we'll have to wait and see exactly how that unfolds."
President Moon Jae-in and US Vice President Mike Pence talk at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap)
His comments came shortly after North Korea ruled out any dialogue between its delegates and their US counterparts on the sidelines of the Games that will open Friday.
The US has not requested a meeting with the North Koreans, Pence said, and any contact will be used to urge Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"And the pressure will continue on them, economically and diplomatically, until that's accomplished," he added. "We'll also make it very clear that the United States of America and our allies are fully prepared to defend ourselves and defend our freedom and our people. So we'll see if any kind of a meeting comes about in any context."
Pence said he will use "every appropriate setting" during his visit to South Korea to send a clear message to the North.
"We'll continue to seize every opportunity to ensure that North Korea does not use the powerful imagery and backdrop of the Olympics to paper over an appalling record of human rights and a pattern of developing weapons and conducting in the kind of missile launches that are threatening our nation and threatening neighbors across the region," he said.
Upon arriving in Seoul later in the day, Pence met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the two leaders agreed to continue to use "maximum pressure" to bring North Korea to talks on its denuclearization. (Yonhap)