Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that he opted to ignore Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, during his trip to the Winter Olympics.
“I didn’t avoid the dictator’s sister, but I did ignore her,” Pence told Axios during an event. “I didn’t believe it was proper for the U.S.A. to give her any attention in that forum.”
Kim’s sister, the North Korean vice director of propaganda and agitation, grabbed headlines on Friday when she and other officials were captured in photos sitting in the row behind the vice president and his wife, Karen Pence, at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Despite their physical proximity, U.S. and North Korea officials opted not to meet, a decision that the White House said was mutual. Pence had previously left the door open to a potential gathering between officials from two countries, telling reporters before the event that “we’ll see what happens.”
Pence on Wednesday said President Donald Trump’s administration would continue to exert maximum pressure on North Korea, which he called “the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.”
On U.S. military options against North Korea, he said: “The United States has viable military options to deal with the threat of nuclear and ballistic missiles from North Korea. … We want to exhaust every opportunity to make sure North Korea understands our intentions and the seriousness of the USA and our allies."
Pence shut the door on the idea of the U.S. offering Kim Jong Un concessions in exchange for the North’s ending its military and nuclear weapons tests. The vice president said North Korea would need to completely shutter its missile program to engage in negotiations with the U.S.
“Only then can we consider any change in posture by the United States or the international community,” he said.
Pence added that he would “always believe in talking, but talking is not negotiating.”
The vice president over the weekend expressed an openness to enter into a diplomatic dialogue with North Korea without preconditions.
“The maximum-pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify," he told The Washington Post on Sunday. “But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”