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Heading home, Pence insists 'no daylight' on North Korea

12 February, 2018, 15:10 | Author: Heidi Alvarez
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Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader, was in the south for the Winter Olympics amid a recent detente between the two neighbors, despite escalating tensions over the North's weapons program a year ago and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington.

The 28-year-old is a crucial part of the North's Games delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday met with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister and special envoy of top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un.

Any summit between the two still-officially warring Koreas would be a coup for Moon, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games", he said in Japan earlier this week. The parties have also reiterated their desire to boost cooperation and dialogue between Pyongyang and Seoul.

He supported Pence's moves to meet with North Korean defectors, paying respects at a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack blamed on the North. Pence also invited as his Olympics guest the father of USA college student Otto Warmbier, who died after he was imprisoned by North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster.

The priority for the two Koreas is holding meetings between their militaries to eliminate the risk of armed conflict.

The powerful Kim sister also attended Friday's opening ceremony, but before the hockey match there were none of the flag-burning protests over the North's Olympic presence that had marked the previous few days. But one of the women told reporters they had traveled from North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.

Late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung held the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000 with late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader Kim Jong Un.

The invitation came during talks and a lunch Moon hosted with Kim at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

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Pence said Friday that the USA would oppose talks between the two Koreas until the North agreed to open negotiations on ending its nuclear program.

A senior administration official said Moon did express to the vice president that he hoped there could be some potential interaction between Pence and the North Korean delegations during the games - something that did not occur.

A North Korean art troupe returned home on Monday, ending a high-profile performance tour of South Korea to celebrate the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

The North Korean taekwondo athletes arrived South this week and performed at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games opening ceremony on Friday as part of four performances during their nine-day trip.

Hundreds of protestors gathered in Seoul on Sunday to vent their anger at what they called the "Pyongyang Games".

USA officials have been urging South Korea to be cautious in its rapprochement with the North - a point Pence drilled home in private meetings with Moon on Thursday.

One protester, who gave her name only as Laila, told CNN she was angry at President Moon. That, predictably, was the image that North Korea's main newspaper put on its front pages.

Others, such as 23-year-old Yoon Jun-young, were angry that that North Korea's participation on the global sporting stage had come without any political concessions.

Along with the rest of the North's senior delegation, Kim is to have lunch with Moon in Seoul.

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