North Korea's Kim invites S Korean leader to Pyongyang


The last inter-Korean summit was held almost two decades ago.

This was the Japanese leader's first contact with a senior official of the current North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong Un. The United States has sent across a team of 242 athletes, and this is believed to be the largest American delegation participating in Winter Olympics.

Washington has long insisted the North must show a willingness to denuclearise before any negotiations - which Pyongyang says it will never do.

According to Pence's office, there was "no interaction" between the USA vice president and the North Korean officials. As the North spent the past year threatening the world with ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, people are wary of its recent behavior in the name of "peace" and "harmony".

Even so, there's also cautious optimism, or curiosity at least.

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

On the flight home from his Asian-Pacific trip flying somewhere over South Korea, Pence told reporters aboard Air Force Two that he appreciated Moon's transparency and perspective on North Korea, but reiterated that the USA and South Korea will "continue to stand strong and to work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea". "And it also is a signal that North Korea is not this insane, weird former Cold War state - but it too has young women that are capable and are the future leadership".

Saturday's meeting, the most significant diplomatic encounter between the two sides in more than a generation, could now be surpassed should Moon accept Kim's invitation to visit Pyongyang later this year, CNN reported. Pence and the Kims seemed to go out of their way not to acknowledge each other.

Moon had already shaken hands with Kim Yo Jongand Kim Yong Nam at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday in Pyeongchang.

It's the final stop on a six-day trip that Pence had hoped would increase pressure on North Korea as it seeks to use the games to pursue an opening with the South.

The opening part of the talks was mostly about the weather: Pyeongchang was colder than Seoul, it was agreed.

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Figure skater Julian Yee was given the honour of being Malaysia's flag bearer at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. It is rare for a South Korean president to hold formal talks with high-ranking officials from the North.

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"We want to see President Moon become a protagonist in opening a new chapter for reunification and leave great footprints in history", she said.

The North Korean delegates later Saturday may attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women's ice hockey tournament in Gangneung.

North Korean media slammed Pence what they described as "snobbish" behavior.

The players shook hands with South Korean President Moon but Kim did not offer her hand. It was built in the 1960s as a luxury facility for USA troops stationed in the South. A big one could be a demand to cease the U.S. A delegation from North Korea, dressed in identical garb, watched from an upper deck of the stadium.

The North Korean cheerleaders charmed the crowd with nostalgic oldies.

After the threats, missile launches and general nastiness from the North over the a year ago, there is still a lot of anger, fear and skepticism in the South.

The discussions from Saturday's meeting weren't immediately released.

Since diplomatic efforts are "almost zero", sources said this may signal a "calm before the storm", with North Korea quietly preparing its next moves for after the Olympics.

But she had no hesitation about attending the Olympics, because she looks around and sees her South Korean neighbors utterly calm.

"She's probably one of the most influential people on Kim Jong Un himself, precisely because he has very few people he can trust", said Balbina Hwang, visiting professor at Georgetown University and founder of the National Committee on North Korea.