North Korean officials announced Thursday that they have “no intention” of meeting with U.S. officials at the upcoming Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Reuters reported.
The comments came in the wake Vice President Mike Pence’s statement indicating that talks with North Korea were possible during his visit to the Winter Games.
“Explicitly speaking, we have no intention to meet with the U.S. side during the stay in South Korea,” Jo Yong Sam, a director-general for the North Korean foreign ministry, told North Korean KCNA news agency, according to Reuters. “Our delegation’s visit to South Korea is only to take part in the Olympics and hail its successful holding.”
North Korea will attend the games under a unification flag with South Korea.
“We have never begged for dialogue with the U.S. nor in the future, too,” Jo added.
North Korea also held a military parade Thursday in an event that usually takes place in April. The fact that the event, which North Korean President Kim Jong Un attended, was rescheduled to coincide with the Olympics, complicates recent inter-Korean improvements, international observers have noted.
The news of the parade came one day after Pence warned North Korea that the U.S. will maintain its unyielding stance in dealing the country’s nuclear missile program.
What did Pence say?
Pence told reporters in Alaska during a layover Tuesday the he has not ruled out a meeting with North Korean officials while attending the Winter Games.
“I have not requested a meeting, but we’ll see what happens,” Pence said, adding that “all options are on the table.” He also said that he would use the visit to tell “the truth about North Korea at every stop.”
On Wednesday, Pence met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I’m announcing today the United States of America will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever,” Pence told the media after the meeting. “We will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all.”
He added, “We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.”
Pence will attend the opening ceremony as part of his five-day tour of Asia and will be accompanied by Fred Warmbier, whose 22-year-old son, Otto Warmbier, died after being imprisoned in North Korea.
Pence noted that he was “traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime.”
Pence called it “a regime that oppresses its own people, a regime that threatens nations around the world, a regime that continues its headlong rush to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.”
He added, “President [Donald] Trump has said he always believes in talking.”
What led to this?
Relations between North Korea and South Korea have been notably amiable since the year began, starting with Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech, during which he said that North Koreans “earnestly wish” to join the upcoming Olympics.
In response, South Korean officials agreed to meet with North Korean officials, marking the first face-to-face talk between North Korea and South Korea in two years, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited Trump “for bringing about the inter-Korean talks.”
As a result, they agreed to form the first joint Olympic team for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, including a unified women’s ice hockey team.
The sudden uptick in amiability has come as a shock to many international observers. Throughout last year, much of the world nervously watched North Korea’s increasingly unpredictable actions, including a ballistic missile test in late November, the possible spread of “ghost disease,” and multiple accusations of ransomware attacks.