NKorea notes 'warm talks' with SKorea's Moon, no mention of summit invitation

Mike Pence in South Korea

North Korean and South Korean athletes participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics marched as one during Friday's opening ceremony, gleefully entering the ring as a unified team sharing a flag.

Pence said Moon updated him about the meeting he had with North Korean officials and "both of us reiterated to each other tonight that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea".

Vice President Mike Pence, who was visiting South Korea for the Olympics, has used increasingly hostile language against the North in recent days, calling it the most tyrannical regime on the planet and steadfastly avoiding interactions with North Korean delegates at the Games.

In the meeting, Kim Yo Jong handed Moon a letter from her brother, and she asked Moon to visit the North at the earliest possible date for an inter-Korean summit.

"There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile program", Pence told reporters on his flight back to the United States.

He said the secretary-general was also in "the same general area" as a number of other officials from Pyongyang including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, "but they were never in any personal contact with each other".

But analysts say it may be more hard for the South to arrange a summit with the North coming off a year in which Pyongyang test-fired dozens of missiles, including three ICBMs, and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date.

Pence did not interact with the North Koreans even though he was seated in the same box as them at Friday's opening ceremony.

Kim, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, is leading North Korea's delegation to the Olympics.

Since the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953, the two sides have grown culturally and linguistically apart, deepening the political gulf that had initially separated the poor, one-party state in the north from the rich, democratic south.

South Korea may also need to persuade traditional allies the United States and Japan, which have raised concerns that the North is attempting to use its outreach as a release valve for global pressure.

He also reiterated the Trump administration's stance that the United States would take whatever "action is necessary to defend our homeland", including military operations, as it seeks to denuclearise the North.

"Obviously this game had more meaning than just a game", said Danelle Im, a Canadian who plays for the Korean team, "so it was great to be a part of it".

While the trip included meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, it remains to be seen whether they could yield any progress on peace talks. "Cheer up!" they told the Korean team, pointing a unified Korean flag at the players.

After the game, Moon and the two Kims came down to the Korean team bench to speak with the players gathered on the ice as the cheerleaders sang in the background.

South Korea was already the lowest-ranked team before the addition of 12 less experienced players from North Korea, and only qualified as the hosts.

"Honestly, I didn't know I would come here so suddenly".

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 standoff over its nuclear program.

"But the Olympic moment that President Moon is trying to generate here is not a time to nurse those grievances", Jannuzi said.



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