S.Korean PM hosts lunch for high-ranking N.Korean delegation

File 20180209 51697

File 20180209 51697

President Thomas Bach will visit North Korea after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Reuters reported on Monday.

The two sides stressed on Saturday that they were interested in maintaining movement toward peace.

However, South Korea has been more willing to re-engage with the North than its old US war ally, which wants Seoul to keep piling diplomatic and economic pressure on its neighbour.

Vice President Pence watches the opening ceremony seated in front of Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of North Korean Parliament.

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, talk as they for the start of the preliminary round of the women's hockey game between Switzerland and the combined Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.

Speaking about the possibility of meeting with North Korean officials, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that he would "wait and see" but use any opportunity to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Moon also encouraged the North Koreans to be more active in pursuing talks with the United States, saying that "early resumption of dialogue (between the two) is absolutely necessary for developments in the inter-Korean relations as well". Kim Jong-un is merely trying to use the South Korean government as a shield to protect him against intensifying worldwide pressure, and he thinks the most effective way to do that would be to hold an inter-Korean summit.

The thaw in relations has centered on the Olympics, with a senior American member of the International Olympic Committee calling for the joint ice hockey team, which included 12 North Korean players, to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Showing a flair for the dramatic, Kim Yo Jong carried a blue folder with a personal letter from her brother, carefully placing it on a table where the delegation sat across from Moon and his aides.

"We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past".

Some North Korean experts believe tough United Nations sanctions that are cutting off most of the isolated North's sources of revenue have added pressure on Pyongyang to engage further with Seoul.

A senior US official said Pence and Moon, while watching speed skating together on Saturday night, discussed intensifying sanctions.

Moon's government is clearly more optimistic than the Trump administration about the potential for the Koreas' cooperation at the Olympics to create the groundwork for more substantial discussions.

Perhaps the efforts will lead to something more significant, too.

A White House spokesman added that Mr Moon had told Mr Pence no one would take pressure off North Korea until it takes steps to denuclearisation.

One specialist said that while dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington was welcome, it was hard to see North Korea making any concessions on its nuclear program in the near future.

"We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games", he said in Japan earlier this week.

As part of his push against North Korean propaganda, Pence attended the short track speed skating with Fred Warmbier, the father of an American student who died past year after being imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months.