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Pence raises prospect of USA talks with North Korea

12 February 2018, 12:58 | Devin Moran

Kim Jong-un invites South Korean president Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang for summit

Moon Jae-in Kim Yo Jong

North Korea is subject to heavy United Nations and U.S. sanctions created to pressure the reclusive, one-party state to abandon its development of nuclear and ballistic missiles.

But his tough talk was largely overshadowed by the powerful image of athletes from both Koreas marching together under a unified flag and North Korean cheerleaders rooting for a combined women's hockey team, even though it was routed 8-0 by Switzerland in its first game on Saturday.

Already there have been concerns that North Korea's overture of the sports diplomacy is an indirect attempt by the regime to wedge a rift between the US and South Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday it was too early to tell whether a diplomatic detente between the two Koreas at the Winter Olympics would lead to results, but the move had not driven a wedge between Washington and Seoul. When asked what exact steps North Korea would have to take to get sanctions relief, he said: "I don't know".

Kim Yo-jong reportedly delivered an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit Pyongyang for closer talks and cooperation.

The comments represent a departure from the Trump administration's previous stance that it would not engage in any dialogue with North Korea unless Kim Jong Un's regime first agreed to the goal of denuclearization.




The invitation had sparked concern that Kim had succeeded in driving a wedge between South Korea and the US, which have differed on the best way to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.

Speaking to reporters on his flight home on Saturday, Pence said the United States, South Korea and Japan were in complete agreement on isolating North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. A spokesperson for Moon's office said that pre-conditions needed to be met before the summit takes place.

However, South Korea's main opposition party warned any talks between the two Koreas where the scrapping of North Korea's nuclear programme was not a precondition would only "benefit the enemy".

The KCNA report cited Moon as saying inter-Korean relations should be mended by the parties concerned "at any cost as indicated by Chairman Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address".

As the opening ceremony unfolded in PyeongChang, television cameras were fixed on Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of dictator Kim Jong Un.

She was apparently referring to the challenge in coordinating policy toward North Korea after its recent surprise offer of an inter-Korean summit.



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