Pence sidesteps encounter with North Korean official

Pence sidesteps encounter with North Korean official

Pence sidesteps encounter with North Korean official

The invite, presented to South Korean President Moon Jae-in by Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was delivered during a historic meeting between North and South Korean officials at Seoul's presidential palace Saturday, presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.

That's what makes Saturday's meeting so rare: Not only is Kim Yo Jong in the South for the first time ever, but she's chatting with South Korea's president inside the Blue House (South Korea's White House, so to speak).

The Moon government has been engaging in a delicate balancing act between Pyongyang and its longtime ally Washington after Kim Jong Un offered to send a delegation to the Olympics in the South. Moon has accommodated the North's demands on Olympics participation in hopes of persuading Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table to discuss denuclearization, while trying to allay concern in Washington that the North was using a "charm offensive" to simply ease sanctions and earn time to complete its nuclear weapons program.

He also talked about visiting the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the countries operated a jointly-run factory park that had been a symbol of rapprochement before South Korea shut it down in 2016, after North Korea's fourth nuclear test.

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.

Pence had said all week that if he met with the North Koreans, he would deliver a tough message.

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

Cho plans to greet the delegation, led by ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, at a hotel in Gangneung, some 237 kilometers east of Seoul, at 6:30 p.m. they added. Asia experts said Pence's sour conduct toward the North Koreans could be seen as disrespectful to the South Korean hosts, who were demonstrating a moment of harmony with the North. They said Pence could have opted to sit with the United States delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.

Tensions soared past year as the North staged a series of nuclear and missile tests in violation of United Nations resolutions, while leader Kim and US President Donald Trump traded colourful insults and threats of war.

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A large percentage of the North Korean Olympics contingent - which now totals 492 people - is made up of women, including those with prominent public roles, like hockey players and cheerleaders. The North, meanwhile, insisted it has "no intention to meet the U.S. side". The vice president also drew criticism from some openly gay members of Team USA, who questioned his role at the Olympics due to his anti-LGBT views.

But if the Trump administration objects, it "will put the a very hard position in terms of public relations in South Korea", Mr. Han said.

Even if there are more meetings between the rivals after the Games, accomplishing something is another matter.

"Had it not been for the Pyeongchang Olympics, some of us might not have had chance to be together in the same room", he said at the reception for VIPs before the Opening Ceremonies.

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"It seems clear", he said, "that the countries have entered a phase of restoring a regular level of contact".

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