Pence says USA to unveil toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea

VP Mike Pence will stop in Anchorage on Monday on his way to the Olympics

VP Mike Pence will stop in Anchorage on Monday on his way to the Olympics

"My message - whatever the setting, whoever is present - will be the same: And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions", Pence said.

"We have brought unprecedented diplomatic and economic pressure to bear on North Korea through our maximum pressure campaign" to force Pyongyang to move toward "complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization", the vice president explained in Japan, adding, "To that end, 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".

Axios reported that an aide made similar remarks earlier this week.

"I positively evaluate inter-Korea dialogue for a successful Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but on the other hand, we have to look squarely at the fact that North Korea is relentlessly pursuing its nuclear and missile development programs", Abe said.

En route Pence told reporters that the goal of his trip was 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".

The Associated Press writes: "As his personal guest to the opening games, Pence invited Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American who died previous year days after his release from captivity in North Korea".

North Korea informed the South on Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un's sister, an increasingly prominent figure in the country's leadership, will be part of a high-level government delegation traveling for the Olympics.

But after a year of tensions, many are questioning this new friendship between the North and South. He's part of a US delegation that will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea this Friday.

North Korea's participation in the Olympics has become the biggest story from an already politicized games, sparking frustration in South Korea that the country is being forgotten in what should be its worldwide moment, particularly after officials chose to merge the North and South Korean women's hockey teams and march under a unified flag in the Opening Ceremony.

In South Korea, Pence will visit a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North, and hold meetings with President Moon Jae-in.

Pence said his message, if he met any officials from the North, would be the same as it has been in public. In Japan, he will meet with Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and USA service members.

"We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region", he said.

He added he's not ruling out the possibility of meeting with north Korean leaders while at the games.

He will also meet Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy premier and is Pence's counterpart in economic talks, although trade friction is expected to take a backseat to security during his visit. But Pence is trying to keep the focus on North Korea's threatening behavior and continue to pressure the regime with sanctions. We're not dependent on commercial or political support and we do not accept any government funding.

The cargo-passenger ferry, the Mangyongbong 92, arrived at South Korea's Mukho port on Tuesday afternoon, carrying 114 members of the country's art troupe, alongside 96 crew members.

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