World

Seoul seeks communication, lower military tension ahead of possible N.Korea summit

Seoul seeks communication, lower military tension ahead of possible N.Korea summit

SEOUL-South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday met with senior North Korean officials including leader Kim Jong Un's sister over lunch at Seoul's presidential palace in the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea marched together under a unified Korean flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018.

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics marks the 10th marching together of the two Koreas under a unified flag at the opening ceremony of an global sports competition.

Pence said he was inspired by the "bravery" of those who fled across the demilitarized zone - and honored to be joined by Fred Warmbier, who he called a "champion" for the North Korean people.

Tensions between the two soared a year ago as Pyongyang tested missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and its most powerful nuclear device to date, while Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump traded personal insults and threats of war.

Pence is in South Korea, where he is leading the US delegation to the games' opening ceremonies.

Moon shook hands with the 2 at the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday evening.




In December, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's offered to start talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, but the State Department later said there would first have to be a "period of calm" in which Pyongyang suspends testing before any negotiations could begin.

Invited by Moon for lunch at Seoul's presidential palace, Kim Yo Jong verbally delivered her brother's hope for a summit with Moon in Pyongyang, a meeting that she said would help significantly improve ties after an extended period of animosity. The previous meetings came after rounds of global talks aimed at eliminating the North's nuclear program, which eventually failed. Pence was also at the dinner and reportedly refused to shake the elderly North Korean's hand.

She and Kim Yong Nam, the North's 90-year-old nominal head of state, were seated behind Moon and his wife, while Pence and his wife were seated beside the Moons and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Pence carried a similar message during his trip to Japan and South Korea.

But analysts say it may be more hard for the South to arrange a summit with the North coming off a year in which Pyongyang test-fired dozens of missiles, including three ICBMs, and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date.

Just before the opening ceremony, Kim Yong Nam attended a dinner for visiting foreign dignitaries hosted by Moon.

The North-South Olympics detente has raised concerns in Washington and Tokyo that Seoul may ease up on a "maximum pressure" campaign by the United States and its allies to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.

The North has sent almost 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.


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