February 22, 2018

'Improving relations': North Korea praises visit to the South during Winter Olympics

12 February 2018, 04:59 | Taylor George

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Any meeting would represent a diplomatic coup for Moon, who swept to power a year ago on a policy of engaging more with the reclusive North and has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programme.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force Two as he returned from watching the opening of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, Pence said he was encouraged by his own meeting with the South Korean president.

US officials have been urging South Korea to be cautious in its rapprochement with the North - a point Pence drilled home in private meetings with Moon on Thursday. "And frankly they have to end an appalling record of human rights that you heard first-hand today, the world community".

Pence, who was to lead the USA delegation to the opening ceremonies Friday evening, has pressed the South Korean president to take a more cautious approach toward his nuclear-armed neighbor to the north. Moon has looked at the games as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with North Korea - a move the vice president cautioned against. "I thought things would be odd and very different, but I found a lot of things being similar", Kim said while proposing a toast at Sunday's dinner, according to Moon's office. USA journalists were briefly let into a room to see them shake hands and exchange pleasantries via translators before being ushered away.

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games", Pence said.

"Relations between Japan and South Korea have been at odds since the Moon administration announced in January its internal findings on how a" comfort women" agreement was formed before it was signed by the administration of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye.

"North Korea has been adamant that denuclearization is an issue between themselves and the US".

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Moon met Kim Yo Jong and the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam for talks and lunch at the Blue House on Saturday. Lizzy Yarnold carried Great Britain's flag, while Russian athletes came in under the neutral Olympic flag.

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Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, who greeted the North Korean officials upon their arrival at Incheon International Airport and hosted a dinner for them, is a strong candidate.

Saturday, he will also receive the sister of the North Korean leader.

In dispatching the highest level of government officials the North has ever sent to the South, Kim Jong-un revealed a sense of urgency to break out of deep diplomatic isolation in the face of toughening sanctions over his nuclear program, analysts say.

Proving wrong its perceived image, is a 229-member all-female North Korean cheer squad, that stole the show during the ice hockey match on Saturday.

North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam is a career diplomat whose unquestioning loyalty has ensured his survival for decades in the regime's top ranks.

Kim Yo Jong's visit marks the first time that a member of the Kim family has visited South Korea since the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953 and the beginning of the Kim dynasty's reign. Dozens of South Koreans at the airport tried to snap photographs of her on their mobile phones.

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