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12 February 2018, 11:07 | Devin Moran
Heading home, Pence insists 'no daylight' on North Korea
The United States may be looking more favourably at diplomatic engagement with North Korea, possibly holding dialogue, as South Korea pushes forward with plans to establish grounds for a rare summit between the two Koreas.
Rome: US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis cast doubt Sunday on whether North Korea's charm offensive at the Winter Olympics would lead to a lasting rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul.
Most notably, Kim sat directly behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at Friday night's opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, creating the unique image of two top officials whose governments have been locked in a loud argument, suddenly seated just feet away from each other.
"The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization", the Post quoted Pence as saying.
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. Officials in Tokyo believe Pyongyang is trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its two allies, and fear that Mr Moon - a known pacifist - will rush headlong into talks with the North.
"Make no mistake about it, the United States of America has viable military options to deal with a nuclear threat from North Korea but, that being said, we hope for a better path", he said.
"The North Koreans should understand that for a summit or any kind of serious talks to occur, Moon needs to be able to take something to Washington - something that addresses denuclearization", he said before the North's invitation to Moon was announced.
Invited by Moon for lunch at Seoul's presidential palace, Kim Yo Jong verbally delivered her brother's hope for a summit with Moon in Pyongyang, a meeting that she said would help significantly improve ties after an extended period of animosity.
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.
A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007.
Flying back to Washington after attending the opening ceremony, Mr Pence said: "There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programme".
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".
Seoul made a standing offer to North Korea past year regarding another such reunion, details of which have yet to be hammered out between North and South Korea.
The two Koreas are still technically at war after the 1950-53 conflict on the Korean peninsula ended in a ceasefire and not a truce.
The Unification Ministry said steps regarding the improvement of ties would be led by the two Koreas, but also in cooperation with related countries and the support of the global community.
"Under a strong position for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, Korea will faithfully implement the global sanctions on North Korea, while also adhering to the principle of resolution through peaceful means", the statement said.
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Pence, who led the United States delegation to the Olympics, has accused Pyongyang of using the event for its own ends. Meanwhile, relations between South Korea and North Korea have shown promising signs of improvement in recent days.