Pence Avoids 'Interaction' with North Korean Officials at Olympics

South Korean President Moon Jae-in Mr Pence and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

South Korean President Moon Jae-in Mr Pence and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe

"When I heard the North Koreans were going to be on the same team as the South Koreans, I felt it was too good not to come here", Howard said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister headed home Sunday night after a whirlwind three days in South Korea, where she sat among world dignitaries at the Olympics and tossed a diplomatic offer to the South aimed at ending seven decades of hostility.

"The simple truth is that the time has come for North Korea to permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions - to recognize there is no future as a member of the family of nations for a nuclear-empowered North Korea", he said after touring the Cheonan naval memorial, a tribute to the South Korean ship sunk in 2010. He has called for formal talks, repeatedly, arguably leading to Kim's request to participate in the Olympic Games that kicked off this week.

A rare invitation to Pyongyang for the South Korean president marked Day Two of the North Korean Kim dynasty's southern road tour Saturday, part of an accelerated diplomatic warming that included more handshakes, some Korean liquor over lunch and the potential shared joy of watching a "unified" Korea team play hockey at the Olympics.

Historic tensions between the divided Koreas have always involved the United States, though in recent years, the United States has stepped to the forefront of the conflict with the Kim dynasty. He added that he hopes to use his summit with Moon to demonstrate the solid cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea in tackling the threats from North Korea.

Pence's staff insists the vice president would have met with the North Korean officials if the North Korean officials were interested in meeting.

Kim Jong Un surprised the world - and no one more than his neighbors to the south - when he said that the North Korean regime meant to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Mattis also said he doubted that the sporting rapprochement would undermine US-South Korean ties. I asked him what exact steps Pyongyang would have to take to get real sanctions relief. The first liberal president in a decade, Moon during his inauguration speech past year that he would be willing to visit Pyongyang and meet with Kim Jong Un if that helps solve the nuclear problem.

"Kim Jong Un is clearly serious about reviving talks with the South to improve relations", said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and a security adviser to Moon. Even if he had met the North Korean officials, Pence would simply have reiterated his mantra that North Korea can not reap the benefits of being part of the community of nations while it threatens the world with its nuclear and missile aggression.

Pence did not interact with the North Koreans even though he was seated in the same box as them at Friday's opening ceremony.

Moon has invited Kim and other senior North Korean officials to a luncheon at Seoul's presidential palace on Saturday.

USA officials have been urging South Korea to be cautious in its rapprochement with the North.

Moon apparently cited the conditions necessary for an inter-Korean summit.

Douglas Paal, a former senior US diplomat under previous Republican administrations, said North Korea held the propaganda edge for now because, "it's tough not to get caught up in the emotions of an Olympics event".

He said the Olympics had gotten off to a great start, and dismissed the fact that high winds forced the first two Alpine skiing races to be rescheduled for later in the week when hard conditions are expected to ease off.

The North Korean art troupe returned home across the western land border on February 12, wrapping up its seven-day stay in the South.

Abe's priority is to preserve the US-Japan-South Korea trilateral cooperation against North Korea.

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