Abe begins talks with Moon ahead of Olympic opening ceremony

Bob Martin

Bob Martin

Abe said that "a promise" made between the nations should be respected as a "cornerstone of the bilateral relationship".

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has used the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin today, to renew the dialogue with North Korea.

"We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region", Pence said Wednesday after meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. North Korea's goal after the Olympics will be to stop this exercise completely.

"North Korea must recognize that the strong ties between Japan, the United States and South Korea will never waver", Abe told reporters after the meeting. Although the US, Japan and South Korea agreed to work closely with each other and continue pressuring North Korea, in September 2017 Moon's government announced plans to give $8 million to North Korea in order to provide humanitarian aid, despite the ongoing missile tests. He added his hope that it becomes "a venue that leads to dialogue for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

Kim Jong Un himself has not left North Korea or met any head of state since 2011 - the year he became the country's leader after the death of his father.

The United States believes North Korea, which has sent a team to the Games, is using the event for crude propaganda, and USA officials say Pence is going there to try to counter that.

David J. Phillip  Pool  Getty Images
David J. Phillip Pool Getty Images

He will also hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Minister of Finance Taro Aso and will address USA troops at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo before flying to South Korea on Thursday. "Those who dare raise their voices in dissent are imprisoned, tortured and even murdered, and their children and grandchildren are routinely punished for their family's sins against the state".

Pence also has promised the US will soon unveil "the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever".

The North has refrained from further provocations since testing an intercontinental ballistic missile in November.

Administration officials said they had long expected the North would seek to use the Olympics, taking place just 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the heavily-mined Demilitarized Zone dividing the Koreas, as an opportunity to put a softer face on the regime, and painted Pence's visit as a counterbalance to those efforts. A top North Korean official seemed to rule out a potential meeting with US officials in the North's state-run media on Thursday, but Pence suggested to reporters that it was still a possibility.

Asked if war with North Korea is closer than when Trump took office a year ago, Mattis said USA policy is "firmly in the diplomatic lane", as shown by agreement among world powers to increase sanctions.

Relations between the U.S. and North Korea have failed to thaw despite two of the most senior representatives of their countries coming face to face.

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