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Putting Dent in Olympic Diplomacy, Pence Vows 'Most Aggressive' Sanctions Yet for North Korea

"How dare Koreans in the South talk to Koreans in the North to avert a war that would kill millions and destroy the entire peninsula."

VP Pence

Vice President Mike Pence, in Japan on Wednesday, announced the United States will soon impose the "toughest" sanctions "ever" on North Korea. (Photo: The Associated Press/screenshot)

Ahead of the Olympic Winter Games—which kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea on Friday—U.S. Vice President Mike Pence fueled fears that the Trump White House "plans to try to disrupt any normalization of North Korea amid the feel-good setting of the games" by announcing on Wednesday that the U.S. "will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive" economic sanctions "ever" imposed on the country.

"We'll be there to cheer on our American athletes, but we'll also be there to stand with our allies, and remind the world that North Korea is the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet," proclaimed Pence, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the games.

In his comments Wednesday, the vice president neglected to note that many world leaders and peace advocates have implored the Trump administration to take a diplomatic route with North Korea and avoid ramping up nuclear tensions with fiery rhetoric and threats.

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games," Pence continued, building on remarks one of his aides made to Axios on Sunday. The aide called North Korea's decision to send a large delegation to the games—at the invitation of the South Korean government, which aims to reduce regional turmoil—"a charade," and vowed the "maximum pressure strategy targeting" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's regime "will only intensify."

While the White House pursues its "maximum pressure" campaign and is reportedly bothered by the recent talks between North and South Korea, peace advocates have slammed the Trump administration's efforts to sabotage diplomatic progress.

Despite suggestions that Pence use the games as an opportunity to sit down with North Korean representatives for diplomatic talks, the vice president said earlier this week that he has not "requested a meeting, but we'll see what happens."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) took to Twitter late Tuesday to demand that the Trump administration cease any efforts to force regime change in North Korea and to call for negotiations with the nuclear-armed nation.

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