North Korea's state news agency said yesterday its delegation sent to the Winter Olympics held "frank and candid" talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in but there was no mention of the North's invitation to Moon to Pyongyang for a summit.
This is the latest of several moves toward possible reconciliation between the two nations.
"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.
US Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the campaign of maximum pressure against the North during his recent visit here as head of the US Olympic delegation. "And at the same time, we should tell North Korea that returning to the denuclearisation talks will help them eventually".
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in December the US was ready to talk without preconditions, only to have the White House nix the notion.
United States forces surround North Korea with a ring of warships, tanks, soldiers and missiles in the Pacific.
"They know what has to be on the table for conversations".
Both of those South Korean presidents faced growing domestic criticism after their trips to Pyongyang had resulted in large shipments of aid and investment but failed to end the North's nuclear weapons program.
He also called on the North to resume dialogue with the United States, but the behavior of the North Koreans and the Americans toward each other at the Olympics opening ceremony Friday in Pyeongchang illustrated the difficulties that lie ahead.
In an article titled "Shameful behavior using sacred Olympics for confrontational schemes", the ruling party's Rodong Sinmun daily accused Pence of "snobbishly" asking South Korea to arrange the Olympic events so that he wouldn't run into North Korean delegates.
Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon "at an early date", a spokesman for the Blue House said.
President Moon has agreed in principle to a summit with Kim, something which has not happened between the two Koreas since 2007.
North Korea defends its weapons programs as essential to counter US aggression, saying regular war drills between the United States and the South are preparations for invasion. Although the allies have yet to announce a specific timeline, the military exercise is widely expected to resume early April.
In the interview, Pence said the United States and South Korea agreed on terms for further engagement with North Korea, calling the diplomatic path "maximum pressure and engagement at the same time".
"I don't think there is much to expect in the inter-Korean relations unless there is improvement in relations between North Korea and the USA", said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
According to analysts, North Korea's display at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, as well as sending North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's own sister Kim Yong Nam to lead the Pyongyang delegation is not without goal.
Ahead of the Olympic Opening ceremony last week Pence also promised that the USA would soon unveil the "toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever", though did not offer further details.
And at the Olympics itself, the North and South are competing as a unified "All Korean" team - marching under one flag at the Opening Ceremony and playing together at the ice hockey tournament.