North Korean Leader Invites South Korean President to Pyongyang

Defection fears at the Winter Olympics

Defection fears at the Winter Olympics

US Vice-President Mike Pence, sitting a few seats away in the same Opening Ceremony VIP booth, looked stony faced as the scene unfolded.

In a pool report filed from Pence's flight to Alaska from PyeongChang on Saturday night, a senior administration official said that the Vice-President had not been trying to avoid the North Koreans so much as he was trying to ignore them.

Later, Moon watched the joint Korean women's ice hockey team - the first ever combined team at the Olympics - take on Switzerland, joining Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state, who is also visiting the South for the Games.

Moon himself stressed that it was "the very strong and close coordination between [South] Korea and the United States that enabled North Korea to come out to dialogue and to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games".

President Trump has traded insults with North Korea's leader and has led efforts to slap sanctions on the country for its refusal to yield to worldwide pressure to halt its nuclear weapons program. "It's only when they get off the ice and they realize that all the media are here to talk to them that we're not just one team competing in the Olympics". It was handed to South Korea's president by Kim's sister, acting as an envoy. He told reporters that he would "continue to seize every opportunity to ensure that North Korea does not use the powerful imagery and backdrop of the Olympics to paper over an appalling record of human rights and a pattern of developing weapons".

At the Blue House meeting, the delegations shared a lunch of dried pollack dumpling soup, a regional specialty of the only divided province on the Korean peninsula, and soju, a spirit popular on both sides of the heavily militarized border.

The Games have triggered rapid reconciliation between the two Koreas, who are still technically at war. In one the most anticipated moments, North and South Korean athletes marched together behind the white-and-blue Korean Unification Flag. Almost 50 years ago, Kim's grandfather sent commandos to South Korea to raid the presidential office and assassinate the South Korean president. He was imprisoned as a young man for working to topple South Korea's military rulers and forced into the elite special forces as punishment.


The North Korean leader's sister's trip was particularly surprising, as she became the only member of the ruling family to have visited the South, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

White House officials clarified for the press that it was known ahead of time that the North Koreans would also be seated in Moon's box, and Pence knowingly chose to sit in Moon's box instead of in the USA delegation box.

The meeting followed a brief encounter between the two parties at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, in which Moon twice shook hands with Yo-jong. North Korea is likely advancing its own strategic interests by playing into Moon's vision of a peaceful Korean Peninsula. Many South Koreans, meanwhile, who have been threatened with war for decades and saw 50 of their citizens killed in attacks blamed on North Korea in 2010, will be deeply wary of any deal that does not provide real security.

"Her being here is not that bad, but I feel North Korea has shown up to the Olympics without paying", said Yoon Jun-young, 23, indicating that the nation hasn't made any political concessions to mirror its participation on the worldwide sporting stage.

But any movement between the nations would also hinge on the United States, which has warned of further sanctions if North Korea continues to thumb its nose at calls to cease its weapons programs.

During previous attempts at ending the crisis the United States and its allies have provided financial incentives to North Korea or agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea.

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