(CNSNews.com) – The State Department on Tuesday confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence, during his recent visit to South Korea, was prepared to hold a “brief meeting” with representatives of North Korea’s Stalinist regime, but they pulled out “at the last minute.”
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pence, who led the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, had been “ready to take this opportunity to drive home the necessity of North Korea abandoning its illicit ballistic missile and nuclear programs.”
“At the last minute, DPRK officials decided not to go forward with the meeting,” she said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s formal name. “We regret their failure to seize this opportunity.”
Also on Tuesday, a mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) published an article mocking Pence’s visit to the peninsula, and calling him “human scum.”
The North Korean delegation at the games opening included Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is a member of the regime’s politburo and heads the WPK’s propaganda and agitation department. She became the first member of the Kim dynasty to visit South Korea since the end of the Korean war in 1953 left the peninsula divided.
Footage of the events showed Pence and Kim Yo-jong in close proximity to each other in the VIP section, but not interacting.
The administration made clear ahead of the visit that Pence’s attendance was designed in large part to keep attention focused on Pyongyang’s rights abuses and nuclear and missile provocations, and to not allow it to use its hastily-arranged participation in the Olympics as a propaganda coup.
On a visit to Japan en route, Pence signaled the U.S. was preparing to unveil the “the toughest and most aggressive” sanctions ever imposed against Pyongyang.
While in South Korea, the vice-president held a high-profile meeting with North Korean defectors. Also making a strong statement about the regime’s rights abuses was the presence with Pence of the father of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who died soon after being released from a North Korean prison and returned home in a coma last June.
The Washington Post on Tuesday cited Pence’s office as saying the North Koreans pulled out of a meeting with the vice-president after voicing “dissatisfaction with Pence’s announcement of new sanctions as well as his meeting with North Korean defectors.”
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” the Post quoted Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, as saying.
Nauert said in a statement that the administration “will not apologize for American values, for calling attention to human rights abuses, or for mourning a young American’s unjust death.”
“We will not allow North Korea’s attendance at the Winter Olympics to conceal the true nature of the regime and the need for the world to remain united in the face of its illicit weapons programs,” she said.
“The maximum pressure campaign deepening North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation will continue until North Korea agrees to credible talks on a way forward to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.”
The WPK party mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun in an article Tuesday said the regime had “made clear its stand that it has never begged the U.S. for dialogue and will never do so in the future.”
The party organ ridiculed Pence’s visit to South Korea, suggesting he had been disgraced by the experience.
“Pence could not mix himself among the participants in the Olympic event, being a common object of hatred wherever he went during his recent South Korea visit,” it said.
“At the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, he took the seat just before our delegation but did not dare turn his eyes towards it. His behavior reminded one of a criminal wishing to sink through the floor.”
Rodong Sinmun said if the Trump administration wants to avoid further shame in the eyes of the world, it should reflect on its “crimes” against North Korea, and regret “having sent such human scum as Pence to the gathering of peace.”
North Korean media outlets and regime officials are known for hyperbolic and often offensive rhetoric.
Since Trump took office slurs like “dotard” and “old lunatic” have been used to insult the president.
“Human scum” is an expression more commonly seen used to demean South Korean conservatives, North Korean defectors, and others who have testified against the regime in international forums. Back in 2003, the regime’s foreign ministry made headlines when it used the epithet in relation to John Bolton, after the then-undersecretary of state for arms control and international security criticized Kim Jong-il in a speech.