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North Korea's Summit Offer Could Test US-South Korea's United Nuclear Front

11 February 2018, 05:57 | Devin Moran

North Korea's Kim invites S Korean leader to Pyongyang

Moon in talks with high-level

He also talked about visiting the North Korean border town of Kaesong, where the countries operated a jointly-run factory park that had been a symbol of rapprochement before South Korea shut it down in 2016, after North Korea's fourth nuclear test.

The South Korean leader said in response "let's create the environment for that to be able to happen", Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

It was the USA that appeared to be the one left in the cold, especially after the sister of the North Korean dictator extended an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit the North.

"Kim Jong Un is clearly serious about reviving talks with the South to improve relations", said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and a security adviser to Moon. It isn't clear if the White House would support such a meeting.

But it could threaten to sow division between Moon, who has long argued for engagement with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and US President Donald Trump, who a year ago traded personal insults and threats of war with Kim.

Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons first for any dialogue to occur.

After taking in tigers, drum brigades and national parades during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, folks in South Korea were treated to another made-for-TV event: an historic meeting between high-ranking officials from both halves of the Korean Peninsula.

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.

The North Korean delegation arrived in the South on Kim's private plane on Friday via Incheon global airport to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyongchang Winter Olympics where Seoul and Pyongyang are represented by joint teams.

Pyongyang conducted its largest nuclear test previous year and said it had developed a missile capable of carrying a warhead to the United States.




The invitation came during talks and a lunch Moon hosted with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

In a surreal mixture of dignitaries, the Olympic Stadium's VIP box included Kim Yo Jong and North Korea's nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, sitting above and behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and fellow hard-liner Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister.

A spokesperson for President Moon said he hoped the two countries would work towards a summit and called on the USA and North Korea to resume dialogue.

They won't be the only cheer squad at the Olympics.

Before leaving South Korea on Saturday evening, Pence watched short track speed skating games, with Fred Warmbier seated behind him.

North Korean media lauded the players and supporters of the unified Korean women's ice hockey team on Sunday after their first match at the Olympics - without mentioning their 0-8 drubbing.

North Korea has emerged as the early favourite to grab one of the Winter Olympics' most important medals: the diplomatic gold.

Both of those South Korean presidents had struggled under growing domestic criticism after their trips to Pyongyang had resulted in large shipments of aid and investment but failed to end the North's nuclear weapons program.

Past "charm offensives" have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its USA ally.

It's unclear whether the occasion could be used to set up bigger meetings between the Koreas to ease tensions.



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