Pence's trip a 'missed opportunity' for North Korea diplomacy

Kim Jong-un at today's parade and the Hwasong-15

Speaking to reporters later aboard Air Force One, Pence reiterated that there was "no daylight" between the US, South Korea and Japan in pushing to isolate North Korea until Kim abandons his nuclear program.

North Korea is subject to heavy United Nations and USA sanctions created to pressure the reclusive, one-party state to abandon its development of nuclear and ballistic missiles.

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.

A senior U.S. administration official told reporters that Pence did not discuss North Korea's invitation to Moon when the two leaders watched short track speed skating together. At Friday's opening ceremony, for example, Moon shook hands with Jong, as Pence, sitting merely feet away, looked stone faced, never acknowledging the North Korean delegation.

At the opening ceremony, Pence and the North Koreans, who were seated in the row behind him, studiously ignored each other, even as Moon and his wife turned around to greet the North Koreans warmly.

Relations may be thawing.

Kim Jong Un has invited Moon for talks in Pyongyang, South Korean officials said, setting the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in more than a decade.

Tensions between the two soared previous year as Pyongyang launched intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States mainland and carried out by far its most powerful nuclear test to date.

In a rare honor for visiting foreign guests, Moon met Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, four times during the delegation's three-day visit.

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Moon gave qualified consent to holding a future summit with Kim, the first between the two Koreas since 2007. While Trump's advisers have threatened military action to prevent Kim from gaining the ability to strike the United States homeland with a nuclear weapon, Moon is seeking to prevent a war that could devastate South Korea and the region.

But North Korea's awful record on human rights and the growing threat from its nuclear weapons program appeared out of mind.

Pence was reported to have said he reached the new understanding with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been pushing for diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, in two substantive conversations during his visit to South Korea.

A Blue House official said Moon "practically accepted" the invitation.

The official said Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, while watching speed skating together on Saturday night, discussed intensifying sanctions.

Analysts say the North's decision her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

"Although many Koreans are welcoming North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are also significant criticism and concerns both domestically and internationally", the statement said.

US Vice President Mike Pence addressed the Knesset on Monday, giving a strong pro-Israeli speech and promising the controversial relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be completed in less than two years. It has dispatched a delegation of almost 500 people - mostly musicians, dancers, and an all-female cheering squad - and has been pushing its participation as a sign of willingness to work with Seoul, through greater exchanges, to ease what has been a year of very high tensions on the peninsula.

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