March 22, 2018

Kim Jong Un invites South Korean President Moon to Pyongyang

11 February 2018, 03:57 | Taylor George

JAMIE SQUIRE GETTY IMAGES Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Pyeong Chang 2018 Winter Olympics

Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Pyeong Chang 2018 Winter Olympics

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North's weapons programs previous year and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington.

As they shook hands, the North and South Koreans spoke briefly. The VP was a non-entity, reportedly showing up late, shaking Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's hand, and leaving shortly thereafter.

"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 programs", Pence said.

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

The opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea was a miraculous site. The top USA envoy to the Games, Vice-President Mike Pence, sat stone-faced as the crowd erupted in cheers for the unified Korean team - showing the rift between Washington and its South Korean ally on how to deal with the North's nuclear and military ambitions.

Should Moon make his way north, it would mark the first meeting between the top officials of the two Koreas since 2007, when South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun and North Korea's Kim Jong-il discussed nuclear non-proliferation and economic cooperation.

Hundreds of anti-North Korea protesters scuffled with riot police not far from the stadium before the opening ceremony began, with some banners reading "Moon regime is leading Korea to destruction". He was referring to the North Korean leader's invitation for Moon to visit the North.

Kim Yo Jong, 28, is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centerpiece of the North's idolization and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.

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In its efforts to bring North Korea to the Pyeongchang Games, South Korea paused joint military exercises with the USA and relaxed a series of sanctions, including on individuals like Ms. Kim. During the parade of nations, they stood only for the US team. The overture follows heightened tensions over the North's missile tests.

Moon said he wanted to "create the environment for that to be able to happen", according to the office.

A large percentage of the North Korean Olympics contingent - which now totals 492 people - is made up of women, including those with prominent public roles, like hockey players and cheerleaders.

"And he is encouraging both sides to come together".

The 28-year-old is a crucial part of the North's Games delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state.

A senior White House official said Pence was not trying to avoid the delegation from North Korea but rather ignore them, according to the AP.

But the rapprochement pushed by the dovish Moon has angered conservatives, who accuse him of being a North Korea sympathiser and undermining the security alliance with the US.

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