Come visit: South Korea's leader invited to North Korea

Kim Yo-jong is seen standing behind US Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony

Kim Yo-jong is seen standing behind US Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony

"Chairman Kim Jong Un's envoy Kim Yo-jong delivered a letter expressing a willingness to improve relations", the presidential spokesman said. "Even for a moment, it appears to be a normal state".

Pence had only one event on his schedule on Saturday.

Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong delivered the verbal invitation on Friday after arriving in Pyeongchang for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

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.

"The North Koreans should understand that for a summit or any kind of serious talks to occur, Moon needs to be able to take something to Washington - something that addresses denuclearization", he said before the North's invitation to Moon was announced. A big one could be a demand to cease the U.S. "It is important to move forward with the drills as planned", Abe said, according to South's presidential Blue House.

Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state who was also at Saturday's meeting, said "even unexpected difficulties and ordeals could be surely overcome and the future of reunification brought earlier when having a firm will and taking courage and determination to usher in a new heyday of inter-Korean relations".

"This development could have been anticipated, but for Japan it's a nightmare scenario", said Takashi Kawakami, a professor of worldwide politics at Takushoku University in Tokyo.

Past "charm offensives" have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its US ally.

"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 programme", Pence told reporters during the return flight to the United States.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power a year ago on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programme. He criticized the Trump administration for straining too hard to signal disgust of Kim Jong Un's government.

Fuel prices have risen and more wood-fired Soviet-era trucks have been seen on the outskirts of the capital, said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Kim Yo Jong, 28, is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centrepiece of the North's idolisation and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War. The North then withdrew its request after it asked for more fuel than Seoul was willing to provide, a Seoul official added.

North Korean senior officials Kim Ki Nam and Kim Yang Gon also visited the Blue House in 2009 and met with Roh's conservative successor Lee Myung-bak after leading a delegation to the South to pay respects at the funeral of former liberal South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who held the first inter-Korean summit with Kim Jong Il in 2000.

The unified team is made up of 23 Southern players and 12 Northerners, with at least three from the North required to be on the starting roster of 22.

Moon is set to take the invitation with both optimism and caution as he is expected to walk a fine diplomatic line over the matter.

The North's invitation, Manning said, apparently puts Seoul in a hard position, where it needs to prove its efforts will bear fruit.

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