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Abe takes up nuclear issue in chat with N Korean ceremonial leader

11 February 2018

As professional athletes entered Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on February 9 KST for the Opening Ceremony of the "2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics", they were welcomed not just by the loud audience rooting patriotically for their nations, but by K-Pop music.

"We wanted the North Koreans to see the vice president, Abe and Moon sitting directly in front of them for the opening ceremonies, and it would show that that alliance is strong". The Koreas could potentially talk about a South Korean special envoy meeting Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang or even a summit between Moon and Kim. North Korea has been accused of involvement in a number of cyber incidents, including WannaCry - although it has slammed that accusation as "absurd".

But Schoff said that by pouring cold water on hopes for better inter-Korean relations, Pence's stance could be viewed as critical of Moon's outreach to North Korea.

All the protests and ceremonies surrounding the first combined Korean team in Olympic history are about to take a pause, at least for a few hours.

Pence has meant to use his trip to the Olympics to caution the South against "falling for" the North's overtures, which in the past have been used as stall tactics to allow for continued development of its nuclear program.

But the North was still welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called "Olympic games of peace" and the US appeared to be the one left out in the cold.

North and South Koreans marching together under a unified peninsula flag gave Thomas Bach goosebumps, the International Olympic Committee president told Reuters on Saturday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also sat in the VIP box.

Pence also met with North Korean defectors and surveyed the wreck of a South Korean warship that Seoul says was torpedoed by North Korean forces in 2010.

Fred Warmbier attended the ceremony as Pence's guest, but in the USA delegation box.

Ahead of the reception, hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korean media said Pence was expected to be seated opposite Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state, at the 12-seat head table. Reviving inter-Korean talks is key to the polices of Moon, who says South Korea should be in the driver's seat in global efforts to deal with the North's nuclear threat.

The presence of Kim Yo Jong as part of the delegation to the Olympics led to speculation that she might have been sent because, as a close relative of the North Korean leader, she would be in a position to deliver a personal message to Moon.

But when he arrived in Pyeongchang, Pence's behavior drew a sharp contrast with other world leaders, and he did not seem to be present during key moments of the opening ceremonies.

Talks between North and South Korean leaders have happened in the past without yielding any significant changes in North Korea's behavior. The Winter Olympic Games starts with the opening ceremony.

Abe takes up nuclear issue in chat with N Korean ceremonial leader