The world’s largest economy is willing to talk with North Korean leadership even as it continues applying maximum pressure on the rogue state’s economy, according to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Speaking to the Washington Post en route home from a five-day Asia trip, the president’s second-in-command described the strategy as “maximum pressure and engagement.”
The new plan was agreed upon during Pence’s stay in South Korea last week, during which he had “substantive conversations” with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the newspaper reported.
Both officials agreed that Seoul would first engage with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s team — the two neighbors recently held landmark talks — after which the U.S. may follow suit, the Washington Post said. Pence told the newspaper that he had conferred with President Donald Trump “every day he was in Asia.”
This unified strategy marks a major change in Trump’s attempts to resolve Pyongyang’s nuclear aggression and differs from the administration’s previous attempts at economic punishment.
Trump and Moon have long clashed on how to reign in Kim’s missile program — the White House has advocated force while Seoul has emphasized dialogue, a method that Moon’s critics believe amounts to appeasement.
Speaking in Tokyo on Wednesday, Pence said that Washington would soon unveil “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”
It’s not the first time U.S. officials have expressed an interest in talking with Pyongyang.
In December, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered to begin direct talks with the isolated nation without pre-conditions. Trump himself said last month that he was willing to talk to Kim despite recent heated exchanges between the two leaders.