Moon, Pence reaffirm 'maximum pressure' on North Korea nukes

By Yonhap News Agency  |  Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:11 AM
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SEOUL, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday reasserted the "stronger than ever" alliance between the two countries and their unity in bringing North Korea to denuclearization talks through "maximum pressure."

The U.S. official arrived in Seoul earlier in the day to attend Friday's opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

The meeting came amid concerns that Pyongyang's Olympic charm offensive could drive a wedge between the allies and weaken international unity in pressuring the provocative regime.

"The South Korea-U.S. alliance is stronger than ever, and Vice President Pence's visit to celebrate the Pyeongchang Olympics, following President Donald Trump's state visit here in November, will serve as a chance to show the strong alliance and bond between the peoples of the two countries," Moon was quoted by his press secretary as saying.

Moon also noted that based on their close cooperation, Seoul and Washington have enabled inter-Korean talks and Pyongyang's participation in the Olympics, which run Friday through Feb. 25.

"By making the best use of this opportunity, [I] hope inter-Korean talks will lead to a resolution of the nuclear issue and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we need multi-faceted efforts for dialogue," he said.

During the talks, Pence reaffirmed Washington's defense commitment to Seoul.

The Moon-Pence meeting came amid what the South Korean leader has called a rare and hard-earned opportunity for dialogue with North Korea created by the communist state's participation in the Olympics here.

South Korea and the North held three rounds of talks last month to discuss the North's participation in the Pyeongchang Olympics. They marked the first official dialogue between the divided Koreas in more than two years.

Highlighting the recent rapprochement between the two Koreas, Moon is scheduled to meet North Korean government delegates to the Olympics on Saturday. The North Korean delegation includes the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and its leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

U.S. President Donald Trump has welcomed the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue, but Washington is still largely considered to be skeptical toward the move, viewing the North as intending to weaken international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

Pence said his country will continue to put maximum pressure on the North, together with South Korea, calling "permanent and irreversible" denuclearization of North Korea the most important objective of the allies.

He also reaffirmed the United States' commitment to the alliance, as well as their joint defense of South Korea and its people.

Moon noted that Pence's trip to South Korea as head of the official U.S. delegation to Pyeongchang has once again demonstrated the strength of their countries' alliance, also saying his visit will greatly help make the PyeongChang Olympic Games a peaceful event.

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