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North Korea 'Canceled' Planned Meeting With U.S. VP Pence In South Korea

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (right) and North Korea's Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympicvs earlier this month.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to meet with North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un's sister, while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics this month, but the North Koreans canceled at the last minute, U.S. officials said on February 20.

Pence led a U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies in Pyeongchang amid speculation that the United States and North Korea might use the occasion to talk.

North Korea sent athletes to compete at the games along with a delegation led by Kim's sister.

"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," Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, said.

But after Pence in an "uncompromising message" condemned North Korean human rights abuses and announced plans for new economic sanctions, Ayers said, "they walked away from a meeting, or perhaps they were never sincere about sitting down."

"We regret their failure to seize this opportunity," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

North Korea did not immediately comment on U.S. disclosure of the aborted meeting.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters