Pyongyang invites Moon for possible summit talks

Pyongyang invites Moon for possible summit talks

Pyongyang invites Moon for possible summit talks

But North Korea's bad record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind as Moon warmly greeted Kim Yo Jong, the sister of dictator Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the country's 90-year-old nominal head of state.

They were seated not far from a section of North Korean cheerleaders who are attending the Olympics in a sign of warming ties between the two Koreas that Pence and other USA officials have warned against.

Analysts noted that Kim Yo Jong was shown holding a blue folder adorned with a gold seal, which she later placed in front of her on the table, leading to speculation in South Korean media that it could contain a personal letter from her brother to the South Korean President.

Seoul's Unification Ministry said Friday that the Mangyongbong-92 will return to the North on Saturday.

They said Pence could have opted to sit with the USA delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.

South Korea says the artists will return to the North on Tuesday by a land route.

But South Korea's presidential Blue House said Mr Pence had a meeting scheduled with U.S. athletes and had only planned to stay briefly to greet other officials.

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Pence rode to the reception with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two held a private conversation while waiting more than 10 minutes for a photo opportunity with Moon.

These officials said that while Pence did not greet Kim Yong Nam, he didn't deliberately skip over him.

Saturday's meeting, the most significant diplomatic encounter between the two sides in more than a decade, could now be surpassed should Moon accept Kim's invitation to visit Pyongyang later this year.

Moon is desperate to use the games as an opportunity to restore regular communication with North Korea and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the worldwide stand-off over its nuclear program.

Sources told CNN that sending ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim's sibling reads as more of a symbolic act than any concrete diplomatic initiative by North Korea.

Seoul's presidential office says Moon during the luncheon proposed a toast calling for peace and "mutual prosperity" for the two Koreas. "But he stayed there the entire time. and talked to Moon and Abe and their spouses, and the North Koreans sat in the back and didn't talk to anybody, and that image is telling".

While Moon did not hesitate to shake hands and smile with his North Korean visitors, Pence didn't appear to even look in the direction of the North Korean delegation during the Friday event.

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But Schoff said that by pouring cold water on hopes for better inter-Korean relations, Pence's stance could be viewed as critical of Moon's outreach to North Korea.

That may turn out to be errant speculation, but the US doesn't appear to share global relief that there's a glimmer of hope for diplomacy after a year of escalating tensions and fears of nuclear war, fueled by insults slung between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The move came in a meeting on Saturday between Moon and a high-level delegation from the North attending the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games that kicked off the previous day. The U.S. and Finland women's hockey teams also play Saturday.

Moon hosted the delegation at the presidential palace in Seoul for about 3 hours.

The sister of the North Korean leader has arrived in South Korea, dressed in a black coat and absorbing a barrage of camera flashes.

US Vice President Mike Pence, who was seated in the same box, did not interact with the North Koreans at any point, US officials said.

The luncheon also includes Choe Hwi, chairman of the North's National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

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