Pence: The United States is ready to talk with North Korea

Pence: The United States is ready to talk with North Korea

In a message delivered by Kim Yo Jong, the North's leader invited Moon for a summit in Pyongyang "at the earliest date possible", while the US warned against falling for the Olympic charm offensive.

The result mattered less than the political symbolism, however, as around 200 of North Korea's famed "army of beauties" charmed a crowd of 3,600 besotted locals with nostalgic oldies - and even broke out a Mexican wave.

Speaking to the Washington Post aboard Air Force Two on his way home from the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Pence - who avoided any direct with North Korean officials attending the Games - said Washington would keep up its "maximum pressure campaign" against Pyongyang but would be open to possible talks at the same time. The two Koreas had combined teams and played simply as "Korea", wearing uniforms emblazoned with blue-and-white flags showing an undivided peninsula.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent an invitation via his sister Yo-jong to Pyongyang to President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, but sanctions against North Korea will only intensify after the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang end.

US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults and threats of nuclear war as tensions rose, with Trump repeatedly dismissing the prospect or value of talks with North Korea.

All eyes have been on Kim Yo Jong, who has rapidly risen up the ladder since her brother inherited power from their father.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon (R) shakes hands with Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, during a lunch meeting in Seoul on February 11, 2018.

Media have reported Pyeongchang is spelled with an "e" for the same reason, but that change in 2000 has little to do with North Korea.

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Pence has also spent the days leading up to the Olympics highlighting North Korea's human rights abuses and cross-border military provocations - particularly when he met with North Korean defectors and visited the memorial of Cheonan vessel, which is widely believed to have been torpedoed by the North in 2010.

"There is no daylight between the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on the need to continue to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically until they abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile programme", Pence told reporters during the return flight to the United States.

In stark contrast, two kinds of kimchi - the fermented cabbage that features in every Korean meal - were on the menu for lunch, a Blue House official told AFP, one mild Northern style version and a spicier Southern recipe.

The allies appeared to agree that North Korea should make progress on denuclearisation before a summit can be held.

"The fight is not over", Mattis said Sunday. Communications director Jarrod Agen tweeted a laudatory review of Pence's evening: "VP stands and cheers for US athletes". "VP stands and cheers for USA athletes, VP hangs out with US athletes instead of dining with Kim regime, VP does not applaud N. Korea or exchange pleasantries w/ the most oppressive regime on earth", Agen tweeted, with check marks next to each item. "VP does not applaud N. Korea or exchange pleasantries w/ the most oppressive regime on earth", he wrote.

At the start of the meeting, Lee shook hands with the North's chief delegate and then with Kim Yo-jong, as well as other members of the delegation. South Korean television showed its smiling president entering a reception room Saturday and shaking hands with the North Koreans. In response, the Kim regime may resume testing its nuclear and missile programs, as it has done after past Olympic detentes.

But analysts say it may be more hard for the South to arrange a summit with the North coming off a year in which Pyongyang test-fired dozens of missiles, including three ICBMs, and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong have the same mother, Ko Yong Hui.

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