Heading home, Pence insists 'no daylight' on North Korea

Kim Yo-jong is seen standing behind US Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony

Kim extended the rare invitation to the South Korean leader through his closest confidante: his only sister Kim Yo Jong, who was visiting the South as part of the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics, according to South Korea's presidential office on Saturday.

The North has sent its athletes to Pyeongchang, along with cheerleaders and performers, and dispatched a diplomatic delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, its ceremonial head of state, technically its highest-level official ever to visit the South.

Moon and the two North Korean delegates cheerfully clapped and waved as the athletes from the two Koreas jointly marched during the ceremony holding a blue-and-white flag symbolizing a unified Korean Peninsula.

"An early resumption of dialogue between the United States and the North is needed also for the development of the South-North Korean relationship", Moon said through a spokesperson.

It secured a United Nations exemption to allow one blacklisted official to travel, and a waiver from USA sanctions to enable an Asiana Airlines plane to fly North, while granting one of its own for a North Korean ship that came south.

It was the US that appeared to be the one left in the cold, especially after the sister of the North Korean dictator extended an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit the North.

A spokesperson said: "The vice president is grateful that President Moon reaffirmed his strong commitment to the global maximum pressure campaign and for his support for continued sanctions".

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang "at an early date".

But it could threaten to sow division between Moon, who has long argued for engagement with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and US President Donald Trump, who previous year traded personal insults and threats of war with Kim.

South Korea's presidential office said after the meeting that the North Korean leader has invited Moon to visit his country and expressed willingness to improve inter-Korean ties in the letter.

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But North Korea's bad record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind. The real Trump did not attend the Olympic Games, but Vice President Pence is in South Korea as part of the USA delegation.

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"Moon should be aware that he has to urge denuclearisation to North Korea by himself, not depending on dialogue between the USA and North Korea". Pence carried a similar message during his trip to Japan and South Korea.

But Pence said that Moon told him "a bit" about his meeting with the North Koreans, and that he "appreciated him sharing his perspective on that".

Pence said he and Moon spoke as "friends" and are completely aligned on the need to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.

Pence and the North Korean delegation, who both attended the Games opening ceremony, had no contact with each other.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North's weapons programmes past year and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington.

There's worry, too, that the proposed summit may come with preconditions - a North Korean specialty.

North Korean media lauded the players and supporters of the unified Korean women's ice hockey team on Sunday after their first match at the Olympics - without mentioning their 0-8 drubbing.

"What can not be overlooked is that Moon did not directly demand North Korea to abandon its nuclear development". South Korea wants a northern neighbor without nukes; North Korea vows to keep its weapons until the United States discards its "hostile" policies against the country.

Landing without a valid visa, he was interrogated for five hours by North Korean customs officials and fined US$500.

Pence has repeatedly said he would deliver a tough message to the North in any meeting.

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