Vice President Mike Pence told The Washington Post on his way home from the Olympics that the U.S. is ready to open talks with North Korea after a discussion with South Korean President Moon Jae-in:

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. But the Trump administration is now willing to sit down and talk with the regime while that pressure campaign is ongoing.

Pence called it “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.” That’s an important change from the previous U.S. position, which was to build maximum pressure until Pyongyang made real concessions and only then to engage directly with the regime.

“The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization,” Pence said. “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics are currently ongoing in PyeongChang in South Korea. The two Koreas have joined together in the games and Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong even joined the president’s entourage. She became the first member of the Kim family to visit below the DMZ since they came into power.

Moon told Pence that “he wanted Olympic engagement to lead to real negotiations.” However, the two Koreas have joined together in past sporting events, but the tensions have always come back after the events ended. Moon’s idea clashed with Pence when the vide president “talked only about the pressure track.” The two men encountered a breakthrough, though:

Pence told Moon the international community must not repeat the mistakes of the past by giving North Korea concessions in exchange for talking. Pence asked Moon for his idea of how this engagement could be different.

Moon assured Pence he would tell the North Koreans clearly that they would not get economic or diplomatic benefits for just talking — only for taking concrete steps toward denuclearization. Based on that assurance, Pence felt confident he could endorse post-Olympic engagement with Pyongyang.

“I think it is different from the last 20 years,” Pence said. I asked him what exact steps Pyongyang would have to take to get real sanctions relief. “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s why you have to have talks.”

Pence did not meet with the North Korea delegation during his visit. He received backlash over it, but the White House stated that both sides decided to opt out of a meeting.

In Tokyo, Pence announced that our government will soon unleash “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever.”

This could cause a Kim to restart his nuclear program, which Moon or anyone with a brain does not want to happen:

Moon is working hard to prevent that from happening. He is entertaining a North Korean offer to visit Pyongyang. He is also urging the North Koreans to sit down with the United States at the earliest opportunity.

“Moon told me at the skating rink that he told [the North Koreans], ‘You’ve got to talk to the Americans,’ ” Pence said.

The idea of “talks about talks” is not new. In fact, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has raised the idea multiple times. Trump himself has said he sees nothing wrong with talking with the North Koreans per se. Moving from that to substantive negotiations would still be extremely difficult. But to make any real progress, talking is the first necessary step.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust the North Koreans. I see them using the Olympics as propaganda and will not change. Kim Jong Un and his family are monsters, running a regime as brutal as Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.