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Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say
11 February 2018, 08:14 | Anna Jefferson
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in had "virtually accepted" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation to Pyongyang, officials said on Saturday, making way for a first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.
Both Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong were expected to attend a Saturday meeting with Moon, possibly at Moon's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, the agency reported.
The North and the United States were also holding a series of high-level talks on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.
In a rare public moment, President Moon shook hands with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, at start of the opening ceremony.
The North has sent almost 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.
After sitting at the table, Kim Yo Jong pulled out what appeared to be a blue document folder in front of her, which sparked the interest of the local media that speculated she might be carrying a personal message from her brother.
These officials said that while Pence did not greet Kim Yong Nam, he didn't deliberately skip over him. It was attended by some 200 people, including more than two dozen global leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the presidents of Estonia and Germany.
North Korea has sent some of the highest level officials ever to the south for these games, the result of diplomacy by Seoul that led to an agreement between the two countries - still formally at war - to participate together in the Winter Games.
As if to drive the point home, Kim Jong Un used the eve of the Olympics to throw a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by several huge intercontinental ballistic missiles rolled out in launcher trucks.
As for sharing Moon's box with the North Koreans, the officials said they knew in advance who was going to be in Moon's box to watch the opening ceremony. The U.S. and the North should quickly resume dialogue, he said.
But North Korea's bad record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind.
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. They said Pence could have opted to sit with the USA delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.
The first medals of the Pyeongchang Olympics will be awarded Saturday, but most attention will be focused on a preliminary round hockey match featuring the combined Korean women's hockey team.
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