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NKorea still holds the key after US shifts policy on talks

AP  |  Washington 

The US is open for talks without preconditions with nuclear North Korea, Vice Mike Pence has declared, subtly shifting policy after Olympics-inspired gestures of respect between the rival

That provides a little more leverage for South in its path-finding outreach to the North and could reduce potential strains in the US-South Korean alliance. But diplomacy between and won't start unless wants it to. While the North Korean dictator, who has yet to meet a foreign leader, has invited the South Korean for a rare summit, Kim has given no sign of being ready to talk to the US.

A back channel of diplomatic communication between North and the State Department has remained open since took office a year ago, but the only substantive talks reported to date were in the first half of last year over the fate of several Americans in North Korean custody. The North has refused to negotiate over its nuclear weapons as it nears its goal of being able to launch an atomic-tipped missile that could strike the US mainland.

Trump views those weapons as national security threat. His administration's 2019 budget, released Monday, includes hundreds of millions dollars more for missile defence, adding 20 strategic interceptors in to protect against long-range, North Korean projectiles.

Meanwhile, Pence is making clear that the US will keep escalating sanctions pressure on the North until it takes clear steps toward giving up its nukes.

But at the same time, Pence signalled more openness to engagement with

"The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization," Pence told The Post on his flight home from the Winter in South this past weekend.

"So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we'll talk."

That's a marked departure from the uncompromising message that Pence delivered at every public stop on his trip, when he repeatedly assailed on human rights and nuclear provocations, and threw cold water on South Korean President Moon Jae-in's outreach to the North by snubbing its delegation at the games.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 04:40 IST