Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

Kim Yo-jong meets South Korean president in Seoul as thaw continues

Kim Yo-jong meets South Korean president in Seoul as thaw continues

Kim Yo Jong, who is the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is attending the games, making her the first member of the ruling dynasty to set foot in the South since the Korean War.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday said the United States, South Korea and Japan were in complete agreement on isolating North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, even as the two Koreas deepened their diplomatic detente at the Winter Olympics. The result: a heady, sometimes surreal, state of affairs in a South Korea that has seen far more threat than charm out of the North. Kim Yo Jong, left hakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Past "charm offensives" have been interpreted as North Korea trying to recoup from crippling sanctions on their nuclear program, or trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and its US ally.

North Korea held a scaled-down military parade Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of its armed forces' foundation, on the eve of the PyeongChang Games.

The U.S. and the United Nations Security Council have slapped a series of sanctions on North Korea after its repeated intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches.

Even so, there's also cautious optimism, or curiosity at least.

Kim Jong Un wanted to meet Moon "at an early date" and Moon had said "let's create conditions to make it happen", Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing. The U.S. and the North should quickly resume dialogue, he said.

A senior American member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) called on Sunday for North and South Korea's joint women's ice hockey team to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

And while the unified Korean Olympic team received a standing ovation as they marched into the stadium Friday night, Pence remained seated, which critics said was disrespectful of the athletes and his host, Moon. Pence and the Kims seemed to go out of their way not to acknowledge each other.

They stood from their seats and, smiling, shook each other by the hand.

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A White House official described the South Korean president as hopeful that there would be "some talks and socializing" between Pence and the North Koreans over the course of the weekend.

The opening part of the talks was mostly about the weather: Pyeongchang was colder than Seoul, it was agreed.

"You must have had a hard time due to the cold weather", Moon said as he greeted Kim Yo-jong, referring to the frigid temperatures during Friday's opening ceremony.

The countries are still technically at war since their 1950-53 war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. "I thought things would be unusual and very different, but I found a lot of things being similar", Kim said at Sunday's dinner, according to Moon's office.

North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam also partook in the historic luncheon with Moon.

"We hope that President (Moon) could leave a legacy that would last over generations by leading the way in opening a new era of unification", she said.

One key question of her visit was what message she would convey from her brother over inter-Korean ties amid a reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas surrounding the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games. She later gave that folder to Moon, and Moon's office said it was a personal letter from her brother.

After meeting with Moon, the North Korean delegates boarded a bullet train to Gangneung, a coastal city hosting some Olympic events.

An inter-Korean summit would be the third of its kind, after Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong Il met the South's Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun in 2000 and 2007 respectively, both of them in Pyongyang.

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