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Washington denies rift with Seoul over inter-Korea talks

12 February 2018, 05:14 | Taylor George

The North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra performs in Gangneung South Korea

Koreas unite for Olympics while Washington bangs drums of war

Relations between South Korea and North Korea have warmed rapidly in recent weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that the country was willing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Moon responded to the invitation by suggesting the two countries "should accomplish this by creating the right conditions", adding that talks between North Korea and the United States were also needed, and requested that North Korea be more active in talking with the U.S., according to Kim Eui-kyeom.

During the weekend, my tour guide Cindy told me she was upset with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for welcoming such a large contingent from the North, including Kim's sister.

Pence and Moon took two very different diplomatic approaches to the North Korean delegation's attendance at the games in Pyeongchang. White House officials stressed that Pence had applauded only for the American team, but Asia experts said the vice president's refusal to stand could be seen as disrespectful to the hosts.

Athletes from North and South Korea, technically still at war, marched together at the Games opening ceremony.

"An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is needed also for the development of the South-North Korean relationship", he said, according to his spokesman.

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The previous meetings came after rounds of global talks aimed at eliminating the North's nuclear program, which eventually failed. Vice-President Mike Pence who sat just a few feet (less than a meter) away and seemed to make an effort not to acknowledge them.

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Analysts say the North's Olympic diplomatic drive seeks to loosen global sanctions against it and undermine the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

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.

A Reuters analysis shows there has been a gradual decline in conventional weapons on display since 2012, Kim Jong Un's first parade as leader, and a move to showcase more sophisticated weapons such as ballistic missiles.

But a bonus was the North Korean "army of beauties", or "cheerleaders" as they've been dubbed - a group of 230 women attending to cheer on the North Korean delegation at this year's Games.

North Korea has made clear that it does not intend to negotiate away its nuclear and missile programs in return for relief from worldwide sanctions. The Korean news service reported that spectators who purchased tickets to Olympic events were unable to print their reservations until the site came back online Saturday morning.

ROK Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (R) shakes hands with the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's sister and special envoy Kim Yo Jong prior to a luncheon meeting at a Seoul hotel on February 11, 2018.



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