Ice Hockey - Unified Korean team try to focus on game, not politics

Kim Yo-jong sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrives at a train station near PyeongChang the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb. 9 2018

Kim Yo-jong sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrives at a train station near PyeongChang the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics on Feb. 9 2018

Athletes from North and South Korea wave Korean unification flag as they arrive during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.

Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state who was also at Saturday's meeting, said "even unexpected difficulties and ordeals could be surely overcome and the future of reunification brought earlier when having a firm will and taking courage and determination to usher in a new heyday of inter-Korean relations".

"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 program", Vice President Mike Pence told reporters after a short visit here.

Kim Yu-na, South Korea's former gold medal-winning figure skater, wore skates as she lit the Olympic cauldron, after being handed the torch by two members of the joint Korean women's ice hockey team - one player from the North and one from the South.

In an article titled "Shameful behavior using sacred Olympics for confrontational schemes", the ruling party's Rodong Sinmun daily accused Pence of "snobbishly" asking South Korea to arrange the Olympic events so that he wouldn't run into North Korean delegates.

President Moon Jae-in and the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will jointly attend a North Korean art troupe's concert in Seoul, officials said Sunday.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

As the North Korean squad chirped encouragement like "Unify the motherland!" and "Win, win, our athletes win!", the women from the south gyrated to pop music, exposing a cultural gap every bit as wide as the scoreline on the ice.

The North Korean nuclear issue is also directly linked to South Korea's national security.

Hundreds of anti-North Korea protesters scuffled with riot police hours not far from the main stadium before the opening ceremony began, with some of their banners reading "Moon regime is leading Korea to destruction".

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Choi Jiyeon (C) of the unified team of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea drives the puck during their preliminary match of women's ice hockey against Switerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea, on February 10, 2018.

Though South Korea is hosting the Winter Olympic Games for the first time, the nation has some experience in the world of worldwide athletics, having hosted the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

They were jammed together in January because of a political accord - and a desire by South Korea's leaders to include their northern neighbors in the Winter Games.

"An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is needed also for the development of the South-North Korean relationship", Moon said, according to his spokesman.

Kim Jong Un dispatched his 30-year-old sister, Kim Yo Jong, as part of the delegation.

American skaters Lana Gehring and Maame Biney enjoyed the presence of the North Korean supporters.

But the military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday added to critics' doubts in the South over the sudden rapprochement, which follows a series of weapons tests.

That said, these officials said that if the North Koreans had approached Pence with pleasantries, he would have responded in kind.

What did seem clear was that, deliberately or not, the North Korean government had managed to edge its way onto center stage during the South's biggest global moment in years. "We wanted the North Koreans to see the vice president, Abe and Moon sitting directly in front of them for the opening ceremonies, and it would show that that alliance is strong". "She is the person he trusts more than anyone else in the regime", said Ken Gause, North Korean leadership expert.

"Obviously, it's in the back of our heads that this goes bigger than just hockey and this combined team", defenseman Marissa Brandt said Friday.

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