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N. Korean leader invites S. Korea's Moon to the North--president's office

11 February 2018, 11:25 | Devin Moran

Pence Avoids 'Interaction' with North Korean Officials at Olympics

Countdown for Pyeong Chang opening ceremony

President Moon hosted Kim at the presidential mansion for lunch on Saturday - a session in which Kim extended an invitation for Moon to visit North Korea later this year.

United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at United Nations headquarters that Guterres sat near 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam at a dinner Friday night, and they were also near each other during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

A massive military parade in Pyongyang on the eve of the just-opened PyeongChang Games has been used as Exhibit A by skeptics: In it, Kim Jong Un highlighted several huge intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were successfully flight tested three times past year and could reach deep into the US mainland when perfected.

Even so, there's also cautious optimism, or curiosity at least.

Moon was invited to a summit with Kim, even as the U.S. warned against falling for Pyongyang's Olympic charm offensive.

Japan does not participate in the military exercises, but it is within reach of North Korean missiles and relies heavily on USA forces and their readiness to deal with that threat.

Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, who is visiting South Korea to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, delivered her brother's personal invitation during a meeting with Moon at the Blue House, a presidential spokesman said. Pence and the Kims seemed to go out of their way not to acknowledge each other.

During their meeting President Moon was pictured smiling and shaking hands with Kim Yo Jong.

North Korea is sending 22 athletes, including three Alpine skiers, to the Pyeongchang Games thanks to special entries given by the International Olympic Committee amid rare reconciliation mood between the rival Koreas.

At the luncheon, Moon proposed a toast, calling for peace and "mutual prosperity" for the two Koreas.

A White House official described the South Korean president as hopeful that there would be "some talks and socializing" between Pence and the North Koreans over the course of the weekend.

Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power past year 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 program.

The pair will have lunch with Moon on Saturday, Moon's office said.




It's by far the most sustained public presence for Kim, who had been something of a mystery to many South Koreans, despite her known role in North Korea's politburo.

After sitting at a table, Kim Yo Jong placed a blue document folder in front of her. Officials didn't reveal what was written in it.

They were on both sides of the ice, chanting back and forth.

The unified Korean team lost the game 3-0.

Even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has shared the American skepticism of warming North-South relations and pressed Moon against falling for the North's "smile diplomacy", greeted Kim Yong Nam.

Abe said he had confirmed with Moon the need to maintain strong pressure on North Korea to get it to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes, reiterating Tokyo's stance that "talk for the sake of talk is pointless". The North Koreans were in the room at the same time as Pence, an official said.

Moon is eager to use Kim's presence at the games to restore regular communication with North Korea and eventually pull it into nuclear talks.

North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam also partook in the historic luncheon with Moon. Many in Seoul, however, while interested in the warming high-level contacts, are also tempering expectations for a real breakthrough.

Moon himself made it clear last month that no improvement in the South's relationship with North Korea will be possible without denuclearisation. It was built in the 1960s as a luxury facility for US troops stationed in the South.

In the longer term, Kim appears to hope that he can convince the worldwide community that it can co-exist with a nuclear North Korea. -South Korea military exercises.

After his speech, Pence traveled to South Korea, where he is scheduled to attend opening ceremonies for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday. Pence carried a similar message.

Kim Yo Jong earlier on Friday became the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

"There was no problem with their costumes but they entered the media seats with a regular ticket", they said. They included Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon; Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho; Archbishop Kim Hee-joong; theater actors Son Sook and Park Jeong-ja; and pianist Son Yeol-eum.



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