US Vice-President Pence suggests Washington ready to talk to N. Korea

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WASHINGTON The US and South Korea have agreed on terms for further diplomatic engagement with North Korea, first with Seoul and then possibly leading to direct talks with Washington without pre-conditions, US Vice-President Mike Pence said in an interview published on Sunday.

Speaking to the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Mr Pence - who avoided direct contact with North Korean officials attending the Games - said Washington would keep up its "maximum pressure campaign" against Pyongyang but would be open to possible talks at the same time.

His comments suggest the Trump administration might be looking more favourably at diplomatic options.

"The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearisation," Mr Pence was quoted as saying.

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

He was reported to have said he reached the new understanding with South Korean President Moon Jae In, who has been pushing for diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes, during his visit to South Korea.

A North Korean delegation led by Ms Kim Yo Jong, younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un, ended its visit on Sunday and faces scepticism over Pyongyang's sincerity towards improving relations.

Mr Moon also assured Mr Pence he would tell the North Koreans they would get economic or diplomatic concessions only for taking concrete steps toward denuclearisation, the newspaper said.

Based on that, Mr Pence was cited as saying he felt confident he could endorse post-Olympic engagement with Pyongyang. - REUTERS