Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Mike Pence insists 'no daylight' between USA and South Korea over talks

REUTERS  Kim Hong-Ji A unification flag hangs on a military fence near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. REUTERS Kim Hong-Ji
Ellis Copeland | 12 February, 2018, 16:56

Athletes from North and South Korea marched together under a single flag.

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister who identified herself as a special envoy to the South, personally delivered her brother's invitation to Pyongyang to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Moon had said "let's create conditions to make it happen", the official said, an indication that he was likely to accept the invitation.

He added: "Then and only then will the world community consider negotiating and making changes in the sanctions regime that's placed on them today".

South Korea's Kim Yuna thought she had seen and done it all during her stellar figure skating career, but lighting the Olympic cauldron as the final torchbearer of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics took her breath away.

The athletes elicited a standing ovation by most leaders in the VIP box, including Moon and Kim's sister.

During the meeting The Democratic People's Republic of Korea invited South Korea's president to visit Pyongyang for talks on strengthening inter-Korean cooperation.

Fred Warmbier attended the opening ceremony as the vice president's guest. Moon asked the delegation, before reporters were ushered from the room.

The North and South are bitter enemies and are technically at war together, having never officially ended the 1952 Korean War.

The US Vice President spent the days leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics warning that the North was trying to "hijack the message and imagery" of the event with its "propaganda".

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Moon and the DPRK delegation shared a view that the two Koreas should keep a good atmosphere of reconciliation and peace on the peninsula while boosting talks, exchange and cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang.

"North Korea has been adamant that denuclearization is an issue between themselves and the US". It was set to be followed by a lunch hosted by Moon, Yonhap news agency reported.

Kanye West blared on the arena speakers, and the cheer squad of young North Korean women decked out in matching red and white outfits decided it was time for their first routine.

At the opening ceremony for the Games, Mr Pence, Kim Yo-jong and Kim Yong-nam were seated in close proximity to each other.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, came despite an acceleration in the North's weapons program past year and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington. Dozens of South Koreans at the airport tried to snap photographs of her on their mobile phones.

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.

The United States may be looking more favourably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea, possibly holding dialogue, as South Korea pushes forward with plans to establish grounds for a rare summit between the two Koreas.

But North Korea's bad record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind.

That said, these officials said that if the North Koreans had approached Pence with pleasantries, he would have responded in kind. "Those who dare raise their voices in dissent are imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered, and their children and grandchildren are routinely punished for their family's sins against the state".

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