North Korea invite is dramatic gesture, but not diplomatic breakthrough

North Korea invite is dramatic gesture, but not diplomatic breakthrough

Lee, a 46-year-old taxi driver, is critical of the North's Olympic participation but said he still wants to meet the North Koreans and say: "Hello".

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have risen sharply over the a year ago, as Kim Jong Un has made rapid progress in his nuclear weapons program and has made clear the program is being developed with the American threat in mind.

North Korea's high-level delegation, including the sister of the North Korean leader, wrapped-up its three-day trip in South Korea on Sunday, after extending an invitation to President Moon Jae-in for a summit in Pyongyang.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, faced a barrage of criticism over the weekend for sitting stone-faced in his seat as Moon and North Korean officials stood together with much of the stadium to applaud their joint Olympic team.

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.

Lee echoed Moon's remarks on Saturday, saying that the South and North should actively cooperate in building the right conditions for a bilateral summit between two leaders of the divided Koreas.

The shadow of a nuclear war may still hang over the Winter Olympics in South Korea this week, but Pyongyang's decision to send its athletes rather than sappers and saboteurs has calmed fears about a violent disruption. This was met with worldwide sanctions as well as a flurry of insults between President Donald Trump and North Korean state media.

The recent detente, anchored by South Korea's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games that began on Friday, came despite an acceleration in the North's weapons programmes past year and pressure from Seoul's allies in Washington.

Moon's spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Saturday Kim's sister verbally delivered his offer in a lunch meeting with Moon at Seoul's presidential palace.

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.

As he met with Pence on Thursday, Moon added his hope that it becomes "a venue that leads to dialogue for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

Abe, who cited the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics that Japan will host as one of the reasons for his Pyeongchang visit, will encourage Japanese athletes on Saturday before returning home.

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"It didn't affect the opening ceremony", Park said.

Later, Moon watched the joint Korean women's ice hockey team-the first ever combined team at the Olympics-take on Switzerland, joining Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state, who is also visiting the South for the Games.

But Moon, a liberal who has always wanted to engage the North, will also have to convince a good portion of his own people who are deeply wary about North Korean intentions.

It would be the first summit in more than a decade between Korean leaders.

The two leaders however, did not discuss North Korea's invitation to Moon to visit Pyongyang, according to a senior administration official.

Pence and the North Korean delegation sat near each other at the ceremony but did not acknowledge or speak to each other.

What will South Korea ask for?

"We are determined to make sure that even in the midst of the powerful background & idealism of the Olympics, the World is reminded of the truth about North Korea", Pence tweeted on Friday.

Her arrival on Kim Jong Un's private jet with a coterie of 22 officials was broadcast live on South Korean television.

"This is a very strong alliance, and one that could withstand any kind of charm challenge or otherwise from the North".

Yoon Young-seok, an opposition party member of parliament and chairman of the foreign affairs and unification committee, said he is skeptical of the initiative because it doesn't contain a specific plan toward getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

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