Amid Olympic Détente, Pence Snubs North Koreans In Visit To Pyeongchang

North Korea's Olympics delegation leaves thorny questions behind

North Korea's Olympics delegation leaves thorny questions behind

They capped their final day in South Korea by joining Moon at a Seoul concert given by a visiting North Korean art troupe led by the head of the immensely popular Moranbong band, whose young female members are hand-picked by Kim Jong Un.

The sanctions imposed against the Kim regime after last year's intercontinental ballistic missile launches and huge nuclear test are now beginning to take effect, experts say, postulating that Kim Jong Un is now looking for the "weakest link" in the chain to try to break the sanctions.

The South Korean leader said in response "let's create the environment for that to be able to happen", Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

North Korea's participance in the games in union with South Korea is significant in that it opens a door for a possible peace agreement and reunification of the Korean Peninsula in the future.

But there was no mention of the North Korean nuclear issue or joint U.S.

Asked later if Moon's desire to accept the North Korean invitation to visit Pyongyang undermined Pence's trip or detracted from his message, a senior administration official said: "No, I don't think it does in the least".

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.

Before these meetings, the Trump and Moon administrations were not aligned on whether Seoul's new engagement with Pyongyang should continue after the Olympics end.

In recent years, the North has been testing nuclear weapons, including ones that supposedly have the power to reach the United States, which has left many on the worldwide stage on edge.

North Korea's Olympics delegation leaves thorny questions behind

This will be the fourth time that both the leaders will attend an event, ever since they greeted each other during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday.

"The point is, no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization", Pence said.

South Korean men's hockey head coach Jim Paek (R) instructs his players during practice at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on February 11, 2018, in preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The lunch Saturday at Seoul's presidential mansion between Moon and Kim Yo Jong is the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years. Many in Seoul, however, while interested in the warming high-level contacts, are also tempering expectations for a real breakthrough.

In retaliation, the communist north sent two agents to plant a bomb aboard Korean Air Flight 858, which departed from the Iraqi capital Baghdad. It was built in the 1960s under the government of late anti-communist dictator Park Chung-hee as a luxury facility for USA troops stationed in South Korea.

The North's presence has dominated the headlines in the early days of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. He came to power promising a softer approach to Pyongyang and has repeatedly sought a summit with Kim Jong-un.

"Dizzying" is how one South Korean newspaper described the diplomatic typhoon swirling over the Korean Peninsula, with all the big players seemingly wanting different things and Moon, at times, the only calm in the storm.

"It seems clear", he said, "that the countries have entered a phase of restoring a regular level of contact".

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