US Vice President Mike Pence and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in attend short track speed skating events at the Gangneung Ice Arena on February 10, 2018. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

Vice President Mike Pence has reportedly signaled US readiness to hold talks with North Korea without preconditions in an interview with a US reporter. If true, it marks a major change from the US’s previous stance against talking with Pyongyang without reciprocal action from the North.

Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin said in a February 11 story that Pence told him the US is ready to “sit down and talk” with Pyongyang. Pence said the decision to pursue dialogue was based on two substantive conversations he held with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week.

“Vice President Pence, in an interview aboard Air Force Two on the way home from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, told me that in his two substantive conversations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his trip, the United States and South Korea agreed on terms for further engagement with North Korea — first by the South Koreans and potentially with the United States soon thereafter,” Rogin wrote.

“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,” Rogin added.

Moon reportedly assured Pence he would mince no words in telling Pyongyang that it would not get economic or diplomatic benefits “for just talking”. He also said he would tell the North Koreans “only concrete steps toward denuclearization” would reap benefits.

Based on that assurance, Pence reportedly told Rogin he felt confident he could endorse post-Olympic engagement with the North.

There’s no sign from Pyongyang if it will accept the overture from the US side.