State Department: US ready to hold talks with North Korea

A North Korean delegation the highest-ranking to visit the South and led by the younger sister of Kim Jong-un concluded its visit on Sunday after charming and intriguing the South Korean public

"We want to make sure North Korea understands us, and if there's an opportunity for talks that can communicate the fixed policy of the United States of America to them, the president has made it clear he always believes in talking".

The United States is willing to hold talks with DPRK despite intensifying its pressure campaign against Pyongyang, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said during a press briefing, Sputnik reported. "We want to exhaust every opportunity to make sure North Korea understands our intentions and the seriousness of the U.S. and our allies".

Multiple news reports published over the weekend claimed Vice President Mike Pence is leaving the door open to renewed talks with North Korea amid an effort by the dictatorial hermit nation to use the 2018 Olympics in South Korea as a platform to present a reformed image.

Pence also touched on his attendance at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister was also attending.

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. "But talking is not negotiation - talking is understanding one another", he said. Warmbier, a college student, died days after being returned to the US from a North Korean prison.

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A North Korean delegation, the highest-ranking to visit the South and led by the younger sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un, concluded its visit on Sunday after charming and intriguing the South Korean public, but still faces deep scepticism over Pyongyang's sincerity towards improving relations.

But Pence, speaking to reporters on Saturday, stressed "the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programme".

Pence also reportedly said that the United States was preparing new agressive sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korea rejects all allegations of rights abuses and has responded with strong denunciations, especially of the U.S. In Monday's statement, the mission referred to "non-existent" rights issues in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea - the country's official name - and called the United States "the principal violator of human rights ever seen in the human history".

The president also highlighted the case of Warmbier, a US college student imprisoned for 15 years for stealing a propaganda poster who died days after his release last June. It was widely interpreted as the US easing conditions for talks after insisting the North first show a commitment to denuclearize.

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