South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and other senior North Korean officials who are coming to the South on Friday for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
On the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, the US and South Korea vowed to work in tandem towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but delivered messages suggesting very different approaches in dealing with the threat of North Korea and its weapons development program.
On Friday, Moon met with Vice President Mike Pence, who is scheduled to lead the USA delegation for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Following Moon's statement, Pence told reporters that there were "many issues to discuss" between the US and South Korea, chief among which is "our shared objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".
"Our resolve to stand with you is unshakable", Pence said, according to CNN.
But he left open the possibility of meeting Pyongyang's representatives.
The Washington Post reported that Pence has invited Fred Warmbier (the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor while visiting North Korea and died after his return to the United States as a result of being mistreated while in custody) to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games with him Friday evening.
Aides acknowledged that the hard-nosed message is an unusual one for the affable Pence, but said the circumstances warrant the tone.
"The U.S.is already opposing North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and U.N. Security Council resolutions have led to sanctions on North Korea", he said.
Pence met with Moon later Thursday, and both reaffirmed a principle of "using maximum sanctions and pressure to bring North Korea to the negotiating table for denuclearization", said Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan.
Earlier Thursday Cho Yong Sam, a senior Pyongyang foreign ministry official, was quoted as saying the North had "no intention" of meeting United States authorities during the trip.
Analysts say that with the dual approach, the North is looking to normalize its status as a "de facto nuclear state", and could be trying to weaken sanctions against it or drive a wedge between the South and its ally the US.
Pence will head the USA government delegation visiting the Olympics' opening ceremony at Pyeongchang, South Korea.
She was placed on the U.S. Treasury's specially designated nationals list in January 2017 because of human rights abuses.
"The real question is whether the North Koreans intend to use this exclusively for propaganda purposes or whether or not we can find some kind of opening to extend the discussion with a leadership that really has not been talking with ... any other leaders in the world", Snyder added. "Those who dare raise their voices in dissent are imprisoned, tortured and even murdered, and their children and grandchildren are routinely punished for their family's sins against the state".