Pence, Moon speak after Moon invited to visit North Korea

Pence, Moon speak after Moon invited to visit North Korea

Pence, Moon speak after Moon invited to visit North Korea

Abe discussed North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and brought up the issue of Japanese nationals who were abducted by the North decades ago when he shook hands and briefly spoke with Kim Yong Nam during the dinner hosted by Moon in Pyeongchang, Kyodo News quoted the Japanese government as saying.

In barely a month since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surprised the world and said his nation was ready to join the Games, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has delayed military exercises, feted Kim's sister at the Pyeongchang Olympics and given conditional consent to a bilateral summit in the North.

Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong delivered the verbal invitation on Friday after arriving in Pyeongchang for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Moon had said "let's create conditions to make it happen", the official said, an indication that Moon was likely to accept the invitation.

Such a summit, if it came about, would mark the first time that leaders of the two Koreas have met since 2007.

"I think this overture towards South Korea is partly sanctions-related, and also related to the fact that it's clear a divergence has developed between Washington and Seoul's most keenly desired goals in the near term", said Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii.

Pence said he would seek to counter North Korea's attempt to use the Olympics for propaganda and invited the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died previous year after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, to the Games in Pyeongchang.

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But Moon has also said that he would be willing to meet Kim only if he received assurances from the North that it would help resolve the crisis over the North's nuclear weapons program.

Over the course of the summit, which also included Kim Yong-nam (North Korea's ceremonial head of state) and Ri Son-gwon (North Korea's chief negotiator), Ms. Kim passed a handwritten note from her brother to South Korea's President.

It was very rare for a South Korean president to hold formal talks with high-ranking North Korean officials, as the two countries remain technically at war after an armistice stopped the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has emerged as the early favourite to grab one of the Winter Olympics' most important medals: the diplomatic gold.

The North is a notoriously tough negotiator, adamant that it needs its "treasured sword" of nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the United States, and will never give them up.

Already there have been concerns that North Korea's overture of the sports diplomacy is an indirect attempt by the regime to wedge a rift between the US and South Korea.

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The Trump administration is wary of engagement with the North, which has been subjected to increasingly tough worldwide sanctions, unless it shows clear signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program.

Pence said the United States and South Korea were closely aligned in their approach to dealing with North Korea.

A spokesperson said: "The vice president is grateful that President Moon reaffirmed his strong commitment to the global maximum pressure campaign and for his support for continued sanctions".

At the game's end, the crowd cheered for the Korean team, which will play in another preliminary round against Sweden on Monday.

The two Koreas have a rocky and sometimes violent history at the Blue House.

"You went through a lot of trouble braving the cold until late" last night, Moon told the North Koreans, referring to their attendance at the frigid opening ceremonies.

North Korea invites South president
The two countries have also formed a joint women's hockey team, which consists of 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans. Much has been made of Olympics rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea, which are still split by war.

However, no member of North Korea's ruling family has ever before visited the Blue House, which is near where North Korea founder Kim Il Sung - Kim Yo Jong's grandfather - sent dozens of commandos to assassinate former South Korean military strongman Park Chung-hee in 1968.

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