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Korea visit, Pence insists 'no daylight' on North

11 February 2018

Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday evening there is "no daylight" between the USA and South Korea, despite their different approaches to engagement with North Korea at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to set foot in this country since the north and south were divided and her grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded North Korea.

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

Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon "at an early date", a spokesman for the Blue House said.

Cheerleaders from North Korea let rip in support for Choe Un Song but he was eliminated in the 1,500m heats and the 25-year-old failed to qualify for the semi-finals. Internal internet and wifi systems crashed at about 7:15 pm (1015 GMT) on Friday and were still not back to normal at midday on Saturday, Games organisers said.

The North Korean artists performed Thursday in Gangneung, a coastal city that will host the skating, hockey and curling events during the games, and are to perform again in Seoul.

The white aircraft had the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name, inscribed in black in Korean on its side, followed by the North Korean flag.

Providing fuel to the ferry would have been a hard decision for Seoul because of concerns that North Korea is trying to use the Olympics to poke holes in global sanctions against the country over its nuclear and missile programs.

He also demanded South Korea remove statues of comfort women that have been installed in several countries in addition to South Korea, including the United States, Australia and Germany, Kyodo news agency reported.

Even after the concert was over, the North Korean art troupe stayed on the stage for more than five minutes to respond to the audience.

Pence shook hands with other leaders, including close ally Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but not Kim Yong Nam, according to a Blue House pool report.

For now, America seems unlikely to come to the negotiating table with North Korea at the Olympics.

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

Analysts say the North's Olympic diplomatic drive seeks to loosen worldwide sanctions against it and undermine the alliance between Seoul and Washington.

A senior Japanese defense official said North Korea's Games charm offensive could "simply be a way to gain time" until it completed its nuclear and ballistic missile development. "There are some who would not want to be in the same room together if it wasn't for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics".

Moon said improved relations between the Koreas may be a step toward resolving the nuclear standoff.

Moon hoped to use the Olympics to ease tensions and North Korea agreed to send high-profile officials as well as athletes.

Moon himself made it clear last month that no improvement in the South's relationship with North Korea will be possible without denuclearisation.

Kim Yong Nam on Friday took a picture with Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook before entering the reception room.

Pence, who left South Korea on Saturday, told reporters traveling with him that Moon had informed him about the meeting with North Korean officials.

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.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007.

"You went through a lot of trouble braving the cold until late" last night, Moon told the North Koreans, referring to their attendance at the frigid opening ceremonies.

Pence, meanwhile, had only one event on his schedule on Saturday: he appeared back at Pyeongchang to view the short-track speedskating event, along with second lady Karen Pence and the US delegation. Since his inauguration last May, President Moon Jae-in has known that he needed to find a way to mitigate the existential threat of nuclear war. The North, meanwhile, insisted it has "no intention to meet the United States side".

Korea visit, Pence insists 'no daylight' on North