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Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say

Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say

That's what people are saying in South Korea, as they consider the unprecedented visit by Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has raised her profile dramatically at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Ahead of the reception, hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korean media said Pence was expected to be seated opposite Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state, at the 12-seat head table.

After North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un extended an olive branch in his New Year's address, the North and South resumed official talks and agreed to form a joint women's ice hockey team and march together under a unified flag at the opening ceremony.

Vice-President Mike Pence is trying to counter North Korean "propaganda" around the Winter Olympics with his own symbolism and rhetoric, shining a spotlight on the North's nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses. Moon, a dove who wants to resolve the nuclear standoff diplomatically and peacefully, quickly responded to Kim's outreach by offering talks.

Moon and Bach offered messages of encouragement, imploring the players to move beyond the results and understand the meaning of what they were doing.

And that folder? It turns out it contained a personal letter from Kim Jong Un to South Korea's president.

Moon was invited to a summit with Jong-un, even as the U.S. warned against falling for Pyongyang's Olympic charm offensive.




Two South Korean presidents, both of them progressives, have gone to Pyongyang for summits before, both with Kim Jong Un's father. Also grabbing attention: earlier photos of birthday parties thrown for two North Korean players, and a dictionary aimed at overcoming a linguistic divide.

Pence had kept open the possibility for some contact with the North Koreans in South Korea, while reiterating Washington's insistence that denuclearization by North Korea is a necessary condition for permanent peace. Moon had earlier met Kim Yong Nam during a dinner he hosted for visiting dignitaries. Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat nearby, looking expressionless.

Moon and Pence spoke Saturday while taking in the speedskating competition, but aides did not immediately say whether the invitation came up during the discussion.

While Moon did not hesitate to shake hands and smile with his North Korean visitors, Pence didn't appear to even look in the direction of the North Korean delegation during the Friday event. The North also a year ago conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date. It's a high-stakes manoeuvre by Moon, and who knows how the coming month may change relations across the 38th Parallel that divides the two Koreas - it may bring the Cold War that still lingers in the Korean peninsula down a notch or two, perhaps even more, or the situation may revert to unyielding hostility. Such close proximity at the ceremony with leaders from the North clearly cheesed off American Vice President Mike Pence. Under the authoritarian army general, Park Chung-hee, who was President from 1963 till 1979, South Korea had developed rapidly.

Two members of the joint Korean hockey team carried the Olympic Torch up a steep flight of stairs, and spectators gasped in unison when they realized the torch would be given to 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Yuna Kim to light the flame.

However, few officials have said this in quite the colorful language that Trump has used.