U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis backed off military action against North Korea on Wednesday ahead of the opening session of the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang

Mattis: North Korea dispute firmly in the diplomatic lane

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U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis backed off military action against North Korea on Wednesday ahead of the opening session of the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang.

‘This is firmly in the diplomatic lane,’ he stated.from the White House podium. 

Vice President Mike Pence is representing the United States in South Korea this week. He and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have each signaled their openness to talks with representatives of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un while Pence is on the continent. 

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U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis backed off military action against North Korea on Wednesday ahead of the opening session of the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis backed off military action against North Korea on Wednesday ahead of the opening session of the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis backed off military action against North Korea on Wednesday ahead of the opening session of the Winter Olympics just across the border in Pyeongchang

Vice President Mike Pence is representing the United States in South Korea this week. He's seen here in Tokyo, Japan - a stopover during his trip - on Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence is representing the United States in South Korea this week. He's seen here in Tokyo, Japan - a stopover during his trip - on Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence is representing the United States in South Korea this week (left). Pence (left, today in Japan)  and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right, yesterday in Columbia) have each signaled their openness to talks with representatives of North Korea while the VP is on the continent

The proximity of Pyeongchang Games has led to an easing in tensions between South Korea and North Korea and North Korea and the United States. 

North Korea has not conducted any nuclear or missile tests in 2018, and a hotline between the Koreas reopened just after the New Year holiday.

The two countries will march under one, united flag at the Opening Ceremony of Winter Olympics this Friday and the border nations will compete as one team in the women’s ice hockey division.

Kim Jong-un, in a surprise move, was stated.on Wednesday to be sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to cheer on North Korea’s Olympic teams at the international sporting competition.

The move mirrors a White House announcement that the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, would represent the U.S. at the games’ Closing Ceremony.

President Trump stated.Friday that he believes it’s a ‘good thing, not a bad thing’ that the Olympics put North and Korea back on speaking terms. ‘And after that, who knows,’ he said.

‘You know, we ran out of road,’ the president assessed during an Oval Office meet-and-greet with North Korean defectors. ‘The road really ended. They could’ve done it 12 years ago. They could have done it 20 years ago. They could’ve done it four years ago and two years ago. We have no road left.’
Kim Jong-un, in a surprise move, was stated.on Wednesday to be sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to cheer on North Korea's Olympic teams at the international sporting competition

Kim Jong-un, in a surprise move, was stated.on Wednesday to be sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to cheer on North Korea's Olympic teams at the international sporting competition

Kim Jong-un, in a surprise move, was stated.on Wednesday to be sending his sister, Kim Yo Jong, to cheer on North Korea’s Olympic teams at the international sporting competition

Trump indicated that he was waiting until the Winter Games were over until to make a decision on North Korea.

‘We’ll see what happens. But, in the meantime, we’ll get through the Olympics and maybe something good can come out of the Olympics. Who knows,’ he said.

Pence told reporters on Monday that his trip to South Korea was double-sided.

On one hand, he stated.he would be present for the Olympic Games to cheer on American athletes. But it is also his intention, the vice president said, ‘to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime.’ 

‘We’ll be telling the truth about North Korea at every stop. We’ll be ensuring that whatever cooperation that’s existing between North and South Korea today on Olympic teams does not cloud the reality of a regime that must continue to be isolated by the world community and it must be brought to a place where it ends its provocations and ends its development and possession of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile weapons,’ Pence stated. 

At a press avail earlier in the day on Monday in Peru, a reporter had asked Tillerson whether the period of calm was enough for direct talks with North Korea to begin – maybe even this week while Pence is on the Korean Peninsula. 

‘Well, with respect to the Vice President’s trip to the Olympics and whether or not there would be an opportunity for any kind of a meeting with North Korea, I think we’ll just see. We’ll see what happens,’ he said. 

The proximity of Pyeongchang Games has led to an easing in tensions between South Korea and North Korea and North Korea and the United States

The proximity of Pyeongchang Games has led to an easing in tensions between South Korea and North Korea and North Korea and the United States

The proximity of Pyeongchang Games has led to an easing in tensions between South Korea and North Korea and North Korea and the United States

North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on Wednesday

North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on Wednesday

North Korean cheerleaders arrive at a rest stop, or service station, as their bus convoy carrying a 280-member delegation on its way to the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympic games, makes its way past Gapyeong on Wednesday

President Trump stated.Friday that he believes it's a 'good thing, not a bad thing' that the Olympics put North and Korea back on speaking terms. 'And after that, who knows,' he said

President Trump stated.Friday that he believes it's a 'good thing, not a bad thing' that the Olympics put North and Korea back on speaking terms. 'And after that, who knows,' he said

President Trump stated.Friday that he believes it’s a ‘good thing, not a bad thing’ that the Olympics put North and Korea back on speaking terms. ‘And after that, who knows,’ he said

Pence offered a similar response when he was subsequently asked about talks by his traveling press during a refueling stop in Anchorage.

‘With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting. But we’ll see what happens,’ he said.

Mattis told White House reporters Wednesday that the vice president is ‘quite capable of making the call’ on talks while he’s in Korea.

‘As far as the situation with Korea, it is firmly in the diplomatic lane. We have seen much stronger diplomatic action,’ the Pentagon chief stated.during a news conference at 1600 Penn.

The United States’ top military general pointed to three unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions punishing North Korea for its illicit development of nuclear weapons.

‘How often do you see France and Russia…China and the United States, Great Britain all voting — and other countries — all voting unanimously?’ Mattis stated. ‘I think that makes it very clear this is firmly in the diplomatic lane.’

He was quick to add that the Pentagon was ‘of course’ backing up Tillerson’s ‘foreign policy efforts, as guided by the president, with viable military options.’ 

On Wednesday in Japan, Pence stated.the United States would be unveiling its ‘toughest and most aggressive’ sanctions yet on North Korea soon. 

He did not say when the United States planned to drop the hammer or what sectors would be hit, though the sanctions are anticipated to come before the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 25.

‘We will not stop to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all,’ Pence said.

 

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