Pence says USA to announce new, tough sanctions on North Korea

Lawrence Kim
February 8, 2018

The Pyeongchang Winter Games - which begin Friday - have triggered an apparent rapprochement on the divided peninsula, where tensions have been high over the nuclear-armed North's weapons ambitions.

In a surprise move, Pyongyang has pledged to send athletes as well as coaches and officials, including the country's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam and the leader's younger sister Kim Yo Jong, to the Pyeongchang Olympics scheduled to start Friday. That in itself is a major development - she is one of his closest confidants, holds a senior party position and her trip will mark the first time any member of the ruling Kim family has visited the South since the Korean War. In other words, the VP will be there in order to counter North Korea every chance he gets. Seoul has previously said the delegation will arrive Wednesday.

"We have never begged for dialogue with the USA and [it] will be the same in the future", a North Korean official representing the country's foreign minister said.

South Korea said Wednesday it's reviewing whether to meet North Korea's request to provide fuel to the ferry that transported more than 100 North Korean artists for performances at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Koh Yu-hwan, who teaches North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said Kim Yo Jong would likely carry a message from her brother to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North Korea already is facing unprecedented sanctions after three U.N. Security Council restrictions in the past year that have slashed the pariah nation's export revenue and capped fuel imports.

The US is employing a "maximum pressure" campaign with economic and diplomatic sanctions to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

"To be clear, we have no intention of meeting with the U.S. during our visit to South Korea", the report said.

The 280-member strong delegation was led by North's Sports Minister Kim Il-guk, which also included 26 taekwondo demonstrators, 21 journalists and four officials from the National Olympic Committee (NOC).

But even if the Trump administration is considering talks with the North Korean delegation, it doesn't mean that the tense standoff over North Korea's nuclear program is going to dissipate anytime soon.

Pence, who will travel to South Korea on Thursday to lead the USA delegation to the Olympics, said the United States is preparing to announce even tougher sanctions in coming days.

After meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, Pence announced that the United States will "soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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