US vice-president Mike Pence said he has not ruled out the possibility of meeting with North Korean officials at the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Before he arrived in Japan at the start of a six-day trip to Asia, Pence said: “Let me say President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meeting. But we’ll see what happens.”

Pence will meet Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and US service members on the first day of his trip.

A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the Pyeongchang Games. Pence said no plans have been made for him to meet with any members of the North Korean delegation.

North Korea is sending its nominal head of state, Kim Jong Nam – the highest-level visitor to the South from the North in recent memory.

Pence said his message, if he met any officials from the North, would be the same as it has been in public: “And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons programme and ballistic missile ambitions.”

The vice-president said he aims to ensure North Korea does not “hijack” the games as it participates on a joint team with the South, in the view of the White House.

He will hold symbolic events of his own to highlight the North’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions, according to White House officials.