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U.S. says N. Koreans canceled Pence meeting at last minute

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had an opportunity to meet with North Korean officials during his recent trip to South Korea, but the North Koreans pulled out at the last minute, the State Department said Tuesday.

U.S. says N. Koreans canceled Pence meeting at last minute

 Pence was planning to meet with North Korean delegates to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to "drive home the necessity of North Korea abandoning its illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs," Heather Nauert, the department's spokeswoman, said in a statement.

"During the Vice President's recent visit to South Korea to demonstrate allied resolve and support American athletes, the possibility arose of a brief meeting with the North Korean delegation leaders," she said. "At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting. We regret their failure to seize this opportunity."

 DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Speculation was rife that Pence would meet with the North Korean delegation, which included Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on the sidelines of the opening ceremony Feb. 9. Pence led the U.S. delegation to the Games.

No meeting apparently occurred, with Pence visibly ignoring Kim Yo-jong, who was seated behind him at the ceremony.

En route to South Korea, the vice president said the U.S. would soon announce powerful new sanctions against North Korea. In South Korea, he met with North Korean defectors to highlight the human rights situation in the regime.

"We will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death," Nauert said, referring to U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who died last year after being sent home from Pyongyang in a coma.

"We will not allow North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics to conceal the true nature of the regime and the need for the world to remain united in the face of its illicit weapons programs," she added.

The U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign, which increases economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea, "will continue until North Korea agrees to credible talks on a way forward to a denuclearized Korean peninsula."

 The Yonhap.

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