Amid Olympic Détente, Pence Snubs North Koreans In Visit To Pyeongchang

Peloton at the 2018 Winter Olympics

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister joined South Korea's president at a concert Sunday as she wound up a whirlwind round of Olympic diplomacy capped by an invitation to hold the first summit between the two adversaries in more than a decade.

The invitation, delivered by Kim's visiting younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, said Kim was willing to meet the South's leader "at the earliest date possible", a spokesman for the presidential Blue House said.

The two Koreas marched together at Friday's opening ceremony but they have never before competed side-by-side at an Olympics.

There will be plenty of sporting drama for both die-hard snow and ice junkies and the once-every-four-years enthusiast.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power a year ago on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile program.

But the summit invitation offered a diplomatic opening that may prove too hard to resist for Moon, a liberal leader who took office in May promising to seek a peaceful resolution with the North.

There was a palpable excitement in this isolated, rugged mountain town, as one of the poorest, coldest and most disgruntled parts of an otherwise prosperous South Korea kicked off two weeks of winter sports, Olympic spectacle and, just maybe, a bit of inter-Korean reconciliation.

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Joseph DeTrani, former USA special envoy for nuclear talks with North Korea, said Moon should make it clear to Kim that he wants to discuss the nuclear and missile issues at the summit.

There were also selfies between North and South Koeran athletes as they waited to walk into the heart of the stadium.

"South Korea has some hard homework to solve regarding some countries", President Moon said in a speech before Pence arrived.

North Korea is under a heavy United Nations sanctions regime which was originally targeted at stopping the proliferation of arms and nuclear and missile technologies, but has become more all-encompassing after its accelerated missile testing.

U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults and threats of nuclear war as tensions rose, with Trump repeatedly dismissing the prospect or value of talks with North Korea.

"I never thought I would visit (the South) so suddenly and believed much would be unusual and different but I saw many things that were similar or the same", said Kim Yo Jong in a toast during Sunday's dinner, adding she hoped to meet the "friendly faces" before her later in Pyongyang.

A 77-year-old man, the oldest performer at the ceremony, sang Arirang, a traditional Korean folk song considered the unofficial anthem of Korea.

Pence prods S. Korean to be hard-liner on North
Talks between North and South Korean leaders have happened in the past without yielding any significant changes in North Korea's behavior.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

Pence is leading the US delegation to the opening ceremonies, where he has worked to pour cold water on warming ties between the two Koreas.

Analysts say the North's decision Kim Yo Jong to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

Neither did Pence shake hands with Kim Yong Nam while making a brief appearance at a leaders' reception ahead of the ceremony - although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did so.

"Now is not the time to postpone U.S".

However, South Korea's main opposition party warned that any talks between the two Koreas where the scrapping of North Korea's nuclear program was not a precondition would only "benefit the enemy". The North, meanwhile, insisted it has "no intention to meet the United States side".

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    Her presence helped the theme of Korean unity to dominate the opening ceremony as the two Koreas marched under one flag. During their meeting President Moon was pictured smiling and shaking hands with Kim Yo Jong.


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