Vice President Mike Pence met with North Korean defectors on Friday as he uses his appearance at the Winter Olympics to call on the international community to grow tougher on North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuses.


Eager to put a reality check on the thaw in relations between the two Koreas ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Pence met with four North Korean defectors, some of whom have been tortured and abused.


Pence was accompanied by his wife Karen Pence, and special guest Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier died after his release from captivity in North Korea.


During the meeting, Pence warned that the world would see “a charm offensive by North Korea” Friday. “But today we thought it was important to make sure the truth is told.”

KOREA POOL. KOREA OUT

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American who died last year, days after his release from captivity in North Korea.

(Korea Pool/Yonhap via AP)


“As these people and their lives testify, it is a regime that imprisons, and tortures, and impoverishes its citizens,” he added.


Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies Friday evening, met Thursday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to press for a more clear-eyed approach toward the nuclear-armed neighbor to the north.


Moon, however, has looked at the games as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with North Korea, which sent leader Kim Jong Un’s sister to attend the opening ceremony.

3TP EUO TPSOUT KOROUT NARCH/NARCH30

U.S. student Otto Warmbier cries at court in an undisclosed location in North Korea, in a photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016. 

(KCNA/REUTERS)


“We haven’t requested a meeting with North Korea, but if I have any contact with them — in any context — over the next two days, my message will be the same as it was here today: North Korea needs to once and for all abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions,” Pence said.


While the Vice President has cautioned against cozying up to North Korea, he avoided public criticism of Moon and congratulated South Korea on hosting the Games.


But privately, officials said, Pence expressed concern to Moon about his more conciliatory tone toward North Korea. 

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