North Korea's Olympics delegation leaves thorny questions behind

Left Third Class Petty Officer Jack Keep on watch at sea aboard the USS Gatling off the coast of North Korea 1953. Right Corporal Lewis Ewing serving with the 6th Helicopter Company in Chuncheon South Korea 1953

North Korea's delegation to the Winter Olympics returned to Pyongyang on Sunday, ending a three-day visit that amounted to a remarkable diplomatic breakthrough for the South Korean government but left big questions about whether it could lead to a solution to the decades-long military standoff between the two nations.

Vice President Mike Pence's efforts to keep North Korea from stealing the show at the Winter Olympics proved to be short-lived, quickly drowned out by the images of the two Koreas marching and competing together, as the South appeared to look favorably on warming ties on the Korean Peninsula.

A senior administration official aboard Pence's airplane also told reporters that South Korea and Japan "are solidly with our alliance and the need to continue and intensify economic sanctions".

At the opening ceremony Friday night, Pence was seated in front of Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's sister and part of the North Korean delegation.

A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007, and would mark only the third inter-Korean summit to take place.

Seoul/Pyeongchang: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited South Korean president Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said on Saturday, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than 10 years. There is a place and time for such a thing but one can not but wonder if this was the occasion given what the North and South Koreans are trying to achieve after year of tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programmes.

On Saturday afternoon here, news broke that Kim Jong Un extended a lengthy olive branch, inviting South Korean president Moon Jae-in to meet in North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang.

South Korea's president has received an invitation to visit the North - an offer that came from the younger sister of the North's dictator.

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Angela Ruggiero, a four-times ice hockey world champion and Olympic gold medallist, told Reuters she would ask others to nominate the team, which included 12 players from North Korea which is still technically at war with the South.

South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North's request to supply fuel for the ship.

Dressed in a black coat and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport. Moon shook Kim's hand; Pence stared forward and refused to engage with her.

Joseph DeTrani, who helped broker a 2005 agreement on North Korea's nuclear program, said Moon should attend the summit if Kim Jong-un agrees to discuss nuclear and missile issues and return to the six-party talks on denuclearization.

Defense Secretary James Mattis today joined U.S. efforts to downplay the diplomatic progress being made at the Winter Olympics, accusing North Korea of trying to "drive a wedge" between the USA and South Korea, and insisting they would fail. It served as the focal point of a charm offensive created to counter the U.S. narrative that Kim Jong-un is a madman who tortures his own people and would blow up Los Angeles or New York City if he didn't get his way.

"(President Moon) said a lot of nice things", said goalie Shin So-jung after the game.

"It's a breakthrough", said Michael Breen, the author of Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader. The attraction? Well, they're called the "Army of Beauties", North Korea's famed national cheerleading squad.

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