Winter Olympics 2018: Historic handshake between North and South Korea

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Shortly before Pence made his announcement in Tokyo, South Korea's Unification Ministry announced that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, planned to send his sister, Kim Yo-jong, as part of the North's high-level delegation to the Olympic Games.

After meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pence said there should be no consideration of using the Games as an opening for substantive talks with the North until its nuclear program is up for negotiations. A North Korean Foreign Ministry official seemed to rule out a potential meeting with USA officials in the North's state-run media on Thursday, but Pence suggested to reporters that it was still a possibility.

"And we talked about working closely together with South Korea as I did in Japan, ensuring those sanctions are faithfully implemented", Mr. Pence added.

Kim and the North Korean leader's sister are scheduled to hold a meeting with Moon on Saturday.

Pence said the United States and South Korea were closely aligned in their approach to dealing with North Korea.

A spokesperson for the vice president said that Pence did not come across the North Korean delegation during the reception.

Speaking on the conditional of anonymity to describe private conversations, the officials said Moon and Pence agreed that the goal of any opening with North Korea must be denuclearization - even if there are differences in how they'd like to get there.

Analysts believe the Olympic diplomatic drive by the North - which put its ICBMs on show at a military parade in Pyongyang on Thursday - seeks to loosen the sanctions against it and undermine the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

Erick W. Rasco
Erick W. Rasco

Neither Trump nor Kim were present at the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Games. North Korea sent nearly 500 representatives, including athletes and 230 people state-sanctioned cheering team to PyeongChang to join with South Korea's delegates in an attempt for the rival nations to revive diplomatic communications.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presided over an extravagant military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square on Thursday, grabbing the spotlight on the eve of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea to thumb his nose at Washington while making a point of showing off his new-found restraint toward Seoul.

Officials in Seoul said the dictator's decision to send his closest confidant and a high-ranking member of the Workers' Party reflected positively on efforts to ease tensions in the region.

While the main organiser of the Olympics said the display would not affect the "dynamics" of the event, the United States had said it would prefer the North did not go ahead with it.

Under the 2015 deal reached under Abe and Moon's predecessor, Japan apologized to former comfort women and provided a 1 billion yen ($9 million) fund to help them.

North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

The young North Korean leader and his sister were favorites of their father, who ruled North Korea from 1994-2011.

Moon and Kim Yong Nam planned to return to the Games venue to watch the joint Korean women's ice hockey team - the first ever combined team at the Olympics - take on Switzerland, the Blue House said. They said Pence could have opted to sit with the United States delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.

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