South Korea's president hosts North Korea delegation, including dictator's sister

Pence out to counter NKorean ‘propaganda’ at Olympic games    
     Feb. 9 2018 9:30

Pence out to counter NKorean ‘propaganda’ at Olympic games Feb. 9 2018 9:30

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years.

Pence was reported to have said he reached the new understanding with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been pushing for diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, in two substantive conversations during his visit to South Korea.

Kim Yo Jong, 30, is an increasingly prominent figure in her brother's government and the first member of the North's ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korean officials refused to meet with any US representatives after months of tensions between the two countries over the North's nuclear weapons program.

Take, for example, the following headlines - ones you'd normally expect to find in North Korea's state-run media.

Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat nearby, looking expressionless. It was built in the 1960s under the government of late anti-communist dictator Park Chung-hee as a luxury facility for USA troops stationed in South Korea.

One telling incident came early. Moon has long argued for engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table over its nuclear ambitions, but did not immediately accept the offer. In response, Moon said, "Let's create conditions going forward and make it".

South Korean television showed a smiling Moon entering a reception room and shaking hands with the North Koreans, who also included Choe Hwi, chairman of the country's National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North's agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs. "It is absolutely necessary for the North and the United States to engage in talks at an early date", he cited Moon as saying.

But in a sign Kim Jong-un is unlikely to give up his nuclear arms, he used the day before the Olympics to host a massive military parade which included trucks carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles - weapons that could potentially strike the U.S. mainland.

Always flanked by thick groups of bodyguards, Kim Yo Jong commanded attention wherever she went, walking among throngs of journalists with a quiet poise and occasionally shooting an enigmatic smile at cameras. In January 1968, Kim Yo Jong's grandfather, founding North Korean president Kim Il Sung, sent a squad of North Korean commandos to Seoul who tried unsuccessfully to kill then-president Park Chung-hee. The previous meetings came after rounds of global talks aimed at eliminating the North's nuclear program, which eventually failed.

"If they all step back at same time, then DPRK's 70th anniversary on September 9, or the 11th anniversary of the Declaration for the Development of Inter-Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity on October 4, is good timing for the historic meeting", said the professor, who is optimistic about the third summit between the DPRK and South Korean leaders.

Although inter-Korean talks are occurring on the sidelines of the Olympics, Pence is confident that Seoul and Tokyo "are solidly with our alliance and the need to continue and intensify economic sanctions", the official said.

Pence's comments suggested that the administration of President Donald Trump, which has mostly taken a hard line over any potential engagement with North Korea, might be looking more favorably at diplomatic options.

Kim Tong-hyung covers the Koreas for The Associated Press.

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