However, senior US officials familiar with the situation said Pence's trip to the Olympics was meant to serve as a counter to North Korea's massive propaganda machine and that media reports indicating otherwise have bolstered the rogue nation's image at a time when it is aggressively pursuing its nuclear weapons program. I asked him what exact steps Pyongyang would have to take to get real sanctions relief.
"Because of these differences, the US-(North Korea) negotiations will be very hard and will probably fail". That may be a bridge too far for the Kim regime, which is adamant that the worldwide community accept its nuclear status.
Pence told Axios that regardless of the North-South talks, there was "no daylight" between the allies on the need to intensify pressure on Pyongyang.
There are other spoilers that could torpedo the new opening.
On Tuesday, Pence held a closed-door meeting and lunch at the White House with U.S. President Donald Trump, likely reporting back on his trip to Japan and South Korea over the past week. In response, the Kim regime may resume testing its nuclear and missile programs, as it has done after past Olympic detentes.
"Moon is working hard to prevent that from happening", Rogin writes, and that Moon is entertaining Pyongyang's invitation to visit and is urging the North to talk to the United States. He is also urging the North Koreans to sit down with the United States at the earliest opportunity.
"I thought that Mike Pence said that it was inappropriate to make political statements at sporting events", co-host Sunny Hostin said, harkening back to Pence's attacks on the National Football League players taking a knee. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, when he's endorsed talks, has been condemned by the president.
Still, Pence said nothing will change until the North abandons its nuclear ambitions, and the US and the global community will "consider any change in posture" only when the regime "completely, verifiably and completely" discards its missile programs.
"The White House's endorsement of the concept of initial talks without preconditions is hugely significant", Rogin concludes.
Pence's presence at the Olympics-despite numerous reports claiming otherwise-was meant to serve "as a foil" to the fawning media coverage of North Korea and make clear that the Trump administration is not failing for the act. "In contrast, Washington is looking to trade sanctions relief for real and concrete constraints on North Korea's programs", said Samore.