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Pence does not rule out meeting with North Korean officials during Asia trip

Vice President Pence said he wouldn't rule out a meeting with the North Korean delegation at the Winter Olympic Games. (Video: Reuters)
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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Vice President Pence refused to rule out the possibility of meeting with North Korea during his five-day trip to Asia this week.

Asked to respond to comments Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made earlier Monday in Peru, in which he seemed to allow for a potential meeting between Pence and representatives from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime, Pence similarly did not reject a possible meeting.

“With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting,” Pence said, speaking in front of an F-22 during a refueling stop in Anchorage. “But we’ll see what happens.”

Earlier in the day, Tillerson had said he wasn’t sure if Pence would have the chance to meet with the North Koreans during his trip — which includes a stop in Japan and one in South Korea — but didn’t dismiss the notion.

“Well, with respect to the vice president’s trip to the Olympics and whether or not there would be an opportunity for any kind of a meeting with North Korea, I think we’ll just see,” Tillerson said. “We’ll see what happens.”

And Pence, responding to Tillerson’s comments, noted that while he personally had not requested a meeting, he, too, was open to the possibility during his stop at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, later this week.

“Let me say President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meeting,” he said. “But we’ll see what happens.”

The vice president added that if he did meet with the North Koreans, he would echo the hard-line stance of the Trump administration.

“But my message, whatever the setting, whoever is present, will be the same,” Pence said. “And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions, and it must accede to the wishes not only of nations across the region and the United States, but nations across the world, to really abandon those ambitions and enter the family of nations. North Korea can have a better future than the militaristic path, the path of provocation and confrontation that it’s on. Better for its own people, better for the region, and better for peace.”

Though Tillerson’s initial remarks seemed off-script, he and Pence spoke twice during his trip abroad, an administration official said.

The two men, the official added, are in the exact same place on the issue.

“All it does is indicate that anything is possible,” the official said, when asked what exactly “we’ll see” means.