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11 February 2018, 06:31 | Devin Moran
Mike Pence to use Olympics to push tougher stance on North Korea
Despite widespread excitement about the unified Korean hockey team and North Korea's large Olympic delegation, the USA vice president has kept his distance from representatives of the isolated country.
The invite, presented to South Korean President Moon Jae-in by Kim's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was delivered during a historic meeting between North and South Korean officials at Seoul's presidential palace Saturday, presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.
"The United States defined our self-defensive nuclear deterrence as a threat to world peace and legalized the modernization of its nuclear arsenals and its preemptive nuclear attack on our republic", the North's statement said in Korean. Moon ran for (and won) his country's highest office on a platform of diplomacy with the North. "We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games", he said in Japan earlier this week.
This is in line with Moon's hopes that the inter-Korean detente could lead to broader negotiations on the core challenges facing the Korean Peninsula.
Tensions between the United States and North Korea have risen sharply over the previous year, as Kim Jong Un has made rapid progress in his nuclear weapons program and has made clear the program is being developed with the American threat in mind.
"Our resolve to stand with you is unshakable", Pence said. The North Koreans were in the room at the same time as Pence, an official said. The North, meanwhile, insisted it has "no intention to meet the USA side".
But during the Olympic's elaborate opening ceremonies, Pence found himself in an awkward position. A big one could be a demand to cease the U.S. "The vice president is grateful that President Moon reaffirmed his strong commitment to the global maximum pressure campaign and for his support for continued sanctions", Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said when asked about the developments. At the same time, the vice president has deliberately left the door open to a possible encounter with North Korean officials expected to be in attendance.
The North Korean delegation also included the country's 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, who was expected to attend a VIP reception before opening ceremony.
But Ms. Kim - the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953 - wasn't there just to shake hands and smile for the camera.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, in the latest sign of rapidly warming relations between the estranged neighbors, triggered by the Olympic Games.
It's highly unlikely that the luncheon will lead to an immediate breakthrough in global tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but just holding such a meeting seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.
A Reuters analysis shows there has been a gradual decline in conventional weapons on display since 2012, Kim Jong Un's first parade as leader, and a move to showcase more sophisticated weapons such as ballistic missiles. She was promoted by her brother past year to be an alternate member of the decision-making political bureau of the ruling party's central committee, which analysts said showed that her activities are more substantive than previously thought.
South Korea and the DPRK fielded a joint women's ice hockey team, the first Olympic team between the two Koreas. The U.S. and the North should quickly resume dialogue, he said. He has also been a vocal critic of any use of military force against North Korea, which is being considered as an option in President Donald Trump's administration. But the prospect could sow division between the dovish leader, who has long argued for engagement with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and US President Donald Trump, who past year traded personal insults and threats of war with Kim.
Mr Pence has repeatedly left open the possibility of an encounter at the Games, but said the U.S. had not requested a meeting.
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