Pence doesn’t rule out talks with North Korea at Olympics

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

US Vice President Mike Pence has not discounted the possibility of meetings with North Korean representatives on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, where he will officially represent the US.

When asked by reporters at a stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Pence stopped short of ruling out a possible meeting with North Korean officials when he travels to the PyeongChang Games in South Korea later this week.

Standing in front of an F-22 fighter jet at the base, Pence said that US President Donald Trump “has said he always believes in talking, but I have not requested any meeting. But we’ll see what happens.”

Pence is leading the US delegation to the Winter Olympics, which officially opens Friday.

He added that the isolated nation could join the “enter the family of nations” if it abandoned its nuclear ambitions.

“North Korea can have a better future than the militaristic path, the path of provocation and confrontation that it’s on. Better for its own people, better for the region, and better for peace.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the US top diplomat, also didn’t dismiss the possibility of a meeting with Pyongyang officials.

Asked at a press conference in Peru whether US officials might meet with North Korea officials on the sidelines of the Olympics, Tillerson said: “We’ll just see.”

The father of the late Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea, will attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Pyeongchang a as a guest of Pence.

‘Peace Olympics’ as diplomacy

Amid increasingly hostile rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington, the Winter Games have provided a rare bright spot in diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The thaw began when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered rare olive branch to South Korea during a New Year speech, declaring his wish “for peaceful resolution with our southern border” — a gesture which was followed by a joint US-South Korean decision in January to suspend annual joint military drills during the Games.

Pyongyang then reached out to its neighbor to the south, reactivating a cross-border hotline which had lain dormant for almost two years.

In January, Pyongyang reached out to its neighbor to the south, reactivating a cross-border hotline which had lain dormant for almost two years. a joint US-South Korean decision in January to suspend annual joint military drills during the Games,

Swiftly organized talks between the two nations, which have technically been at war since the 1950s, led to North Korean athletes’ inclusion in the Games.

Two North Korean figure skaters will take part on a wildcard ticket, and the two Koreas will field a joint women’s ice hockey team, which held an exhibition match against Sweden on Sunday.

Additional North Korean cultural displays will also form part of the Olympic program, and Kim Yong Nam, the head of the country’s parliament, will also attend, making him one of the most senior North Korean officials to ever visit South Korea..

Behind the recent detente, however, the reclusive Asian nation is continuing to develop — and show off — its nuclear weapons program.