Combined Korean hockey team loses to Swiss in Olympic debut

Kim Yo Jong gets into a car in Incheon South Korea on Feb 9 2018

Kim Yo Jong gets into a car in Incheon South Korea on Feb 9 2018

The countries are still technically at war since a 1953 armistice, though they have resumed talks after a year-long standoff between North Korea and the United States in which an exchange of threats between the heads of state elevated tensions and prompted the North's continued missile and nuclear tests.

Pence says he's leaving Asia "very confident that we are going to continue to do the things we've known have to be done to continue to pressure North Korea to abandon their nuclear ambitions".

In the interview, Pence said the United States and South Korea agreed on terms for further engagement with North Korea, calling the diplomatic path "maximum pressure and engagement at the same time".

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.

Kim Yo Jong and her delegation spent three days dining with top government officials, watching the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and cheering for the united women's ice hockey team the two Koreas have fielded at this Olympics.

"The North Korean leadership simply does not want to give up the nuclear capability it has managed to create and South Korea's engagement policy can hardly persuade them to change their mind", said Balazs Szalontai, an associate professor at Korea University.

Still, North Korea's participation in the Olympics and the invitation has raised hopes that a thaw in relations could lead to a substantive agreement.

Kim Yo Jong is handed a blanket at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang South Korea on Feb 9 2018
Kim Yo Jong is handed a blanket at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang South Korea on Feb 9 2018

But both South Korea and the United States has been cautious about the talks, saying there will not be progress without North Korea giving up nuclear weapons.

At Seoul's presidential Blue House on Saturday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, announced suddenly: "I'm a special envoy sent by Chairman Kim Jong Un", and began to read aloud a letter from him asking South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang to meet with the northern leader "at an early date".

The invitation was issued through Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, who was attending the Games with the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.

An inter-Korean summit would be the third of its kind, after Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong Il met the South's Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun in 2000 and 2007 respectively, both of them in Pyongyang.

Pence and his people had essentially no comment on that significant development as Pence left South Korea later in the day.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un played a strong card as the Winter Olympics opened in Pyongchang. She also repeated the invitation directly to Moon to visit at a time convenient to him, he said.

"The president (of the IOC, Thomas Bach, ) nearly as a bridge sat between the president of the Republic of Korea and the honorary head of state of the DPRK last night and they were talking throughout the hockey", Adams said, using the abbreviation for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The attraction? Well, they're called the "Army of Beauties", North Korea's famed national cheerleading squad. It has dispatched a delegation of almost 500 people - mostly musicians, dancers, and an all-female cheering squad - and has been pushing its participation as a sign of willingness to work with Seoul, through greater exchanges, to ease what has been a year of very high tensions on the peninsula. Moon's chief of staff, Yim Jong-suk, held a private farewell dinner for the delegation at a hotel in Seoul on Sunday. She was photographed sitting behind Vice President Mike Pence during the ceremony.

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