Tuesday, 20 February, 2018

Winter Olympics 2018: North Korea invites South president to Pyongyang

Intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen at a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang Abe and Moon show unity as Winter Games open
Kenny Thornton | 12 February, 2018, 16:53

But the North was welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called "Olympic games of peace".

As he seeks to counter North Korean "propaganda" around the Winter Olympics, Pence has filled the days leading up to the games with his own symbolism and rhetoric.

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.

According to a tweet by the Washington Post's Tokyo bureau chief, Ms Kim left a note at the palace expressing hope that "Pyongyang and Seoul will become closer in the heart of Koreans" and for "unification and prosperity in the near future".

It did not mention Kim Yo Jong, the young but influential sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un, who is also part of Pyongyang's delegation and has been the focus of widespread attention.

Another Seoul-based expert said the decision to send a special envoy before holding the summit would help set up a table for dialogue between the USA and North Korea, which is the main agenda of the Moon administration.

Global alarm at the rapid advance of nuclear-armed North Korea's weapons technology rose further previous year when the regime tested its Hwasong-15 ballistic missile theoretically capable of hitting the mainland United States, in a challenge to Washington that has threatened to "utterly destroy" the regime in the event of an attack.

The vice president also met with North Korean defectors while in Pyeongtaek. Moon's mention of the apology initially caused Abe to express doubt about accepting Seoul's invitation to attend the opening ceremony.

South Korea conservatives planning boycott over North Korea
Mr Moon said the Koreas should "make it happen" and encouraged the North to return to negotiations with the US. Pence had said all week that if he met with the North Koreans, he would deliver a tough message.

Officials traveling with Pence said it would be fair to characterize his failure to interact with the North Koreans as a mutual decision, with neither side making any public overtures. Speaking to NBC's "Nightly News" on Thursday, the vice president continued to stress that the United States would protect itself from North Korean nuclear threats by taking whatever "action is necessary to defend our homeland".

"The vice present cheered for the team he's rooting for".

The last time a Japanese prime minister visited North Korea was in 2004.

But North Korea's bad record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind. The speed in which Pence, President Trump, and the White House responded gave credence to the notion that the entire thing was a pre-planned political stunt during a sporting event, exactly the kind of thing that they had been publicly decrying for weeks.

The North also rolled out what appeared to be a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile, which it flew over Japan twice a year ago as it stepped up the aggressiveness of its weapons tests.

Pence told reporters that despite disagreements over how to approach North Korea, the state of the alliance between the US and South Korea is "strong".

Mattis said it's unclear "if using the Olympics in a way to reduce tension - if that's going to have any traction once the Olympics are over".

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