Vice President Mike Pence has officially returned from his short stint leading the American Olympic delegation in South Korea, and, contrary to earlier reports from CNN, he told the Washington Post Monday that he believes diplomatic progress has been made with North Korea — though none of it was made by slobbering U.S. media outlets, anxious to echo North Korean propaganda.
Although Pence and his boss, President Donald Trump, were mocked for "subverting" the Korean peace process by failing to acknowledge North Korean plumage-bearing in the early days of the Games, it seems Pence and South Korean president Moon Jae-in had several productive talks and have even begun to agree on a framework for diplomatic relations with the North.
"The frame for the still-nascent diplomatic path forward is this: The United States and its allies will not stop imposing steep and escalating costs on the Kim Jong Un regime until it takes clear steps toward denuclearization," the Post reports. "But the Trump administration is now willing to sit down and talk with the regime while that pressure campaign is ongoing."
That's marked progress, and it means that, despite completely winning over the American media, the North Korean cheerleaders and a visit from Kim Jong Un's Propaganda Minister sister did not, in fact, convince South Koreans that a no-holds-barred reconciliation was in their best interests.
The real test will come in the months ahead. Both the U.S. and South Korea are expected to take "affirmative steps" in their respective dealings with North Korea. The U.S. wants deeper sanctions, but is willing to hold off if Kim Jong Un agrees with the South to halt nuclear tests that might imperil the region. South Koreans, at least, seem like they're willing to entertain talks involving the United States if the U.S. keeps deeper sanctions only as a threat and lets it handle some of the trickier nuclear negotiations.
Although all of this is probably not surprising to the American and Korean officials who orchestrated the trip and who agreed to the talks, it does seem to fly in the face of how the media was reporting. So where did CNN, which reported the "breakdown" and "missed opportunities" of Pence's trip get their information?
Well, it seems like they got it from North Korea.
US Vice President Mike Pence's trip to South Korea for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has been called "a missed opportunity" by a senior diplomatic source close to North Korea.
Now why on Earth would North Korea say that?
That, CNN did not investigate.