Vice President Mike Pence had planned to secretly meet with North Korean officials while in South Korea a few weeks ago, but the North Koreans backed out of the meeting, according the Vice President’s office.
Pence was on a trip to the far east to visit with allies Japan and South Korea, and to also lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympic Games being held in PyeongChang. Weeks before the trip South Korea sent word through the CIA that the North wanted to meet with Pence while he was on the Korean Peninsula.
Pence agreed to the meeting before he left. The two sides were to meet at South Korea’s Blue House, their equivalent of the White House. The North Koreans, however, were reportedly angered by Pence’s rhetoric during the trip.
On the same day the Olympics were set to open, Pence visited a memorial dedicated to forty-six South Korean sailors who were killed when their ship was struck by a North Korean torpedo in 2010. He also met with four North Korean defectors, as well as the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who was held in North Korea for more than a year and half for stealing a propaganda poster. Warmbier returned to the States in a coma; he died soon after.
Both Pence and North Korean Leader Kim John-Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, were seated in the VIP box of South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the Olympics’ opening ceremonies. Pence notably didn’t acknowledge or make eye contact with Kim, nor did he stand or applaud when the North and South Korean athletes marched into the stadium together under a unified flag.
The moves were carefully orchestrated according the Vice President’s staff, meant to make Pence look like a warrior against North Korea’s propaganda.
The North Koreans were incensed by the actions but were still willing to meet. The next morning, February 10, the North Koreans made clear that the meeting was still on, but that they didn’t care for Pence’s behavior. A few hours later, the North Koreans changed their minds and backed out of the meeting.
Pence spent part of the day watching speedskating at an Olympic venue with his wife, Karen, and Moon, then boarded Air Force Two to return home.