Moon in talks with high-level N.Korean delegation

Moon in talks with high-level N.Korean delegation

Moon in talks with high-level N.Korean delegation

The North Korean delegation's visit to the South Korean presidential office was the first of its kind since August 2009, when a high-level North Korean delegation made a rare trip here for the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who held the first-ever inter-Korean summit with then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

Pence was in close proximity to the North Korean party both at the VIP reception and later, watching the Opening Ceremony from Moon's box, which included Kim Yong Nam and leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong.

The delegation includes Kim Yong Nam, who is the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North's weapons programs previous year and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington.

Lee said the current goal for South Korea is not the unification of the Korean Peninsula, but the prevention of war.

The officials, who spoke on condition because they were not authorized to discuss the US approach publicly, also denied that Pence had been blindsided by the seating arrangement - with the North Koreans in the row behind him, allowing Kim Yo Jong to be easily pictured in profile next to the vice-president.


Past administrations have been wary of efforts by Pyongyang to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, but still generally supportive of efforts to calm tensions at the heavily militarized border that divides the Koreas.

"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 said as he flew back to the United States.

As part of his push against North Korean propaganda, Pence attended the short track speed skating with Fred Warmbier, the father of an American student who died a year ago after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months. White House officials stressed that Pence had applauded only for the American team, but Asia experts said the vice-president's refusal to stand could be seen as disrespectful to the hosts. Moon shared details with Pence of his meeting with North Korean leaders, but did not talk about the invitation to talks in Pyongyang. The United States fought with South Korea and maintains tens of thousands of troops and an "ironclad" agreement to protect its ally.

They said Pence could have opted to sit with the USA delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.

Military and civilian experts have, however, warned against such a gamble given that North Korea retains massive conventional firepower to level Seoul and kill millions, including around 28,000 U.S. servicemen, in retaliation.

North Korea will be represented at the competition by 22 athletes. The senior United States official said Pence was not trying to avoid the North Korean officials but rather ignore them.

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