North Korea: US says 'no daylight' between allies despite warmer ties

North Korea: US says 'no daylight' between allies despite warmer ties

North Korea: US says 'no daylight' between allies despite warmer ties

At a Games rife with political overtones, US Vice-President Mike Pence was watching nearby as the first North Korean athlete competed - and flopped - on Saturday.

A man impersonating US President Donald Trump (R) and another impersonating Kim Jong-un pose in the stands during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018.

The delegation, the highest-ranking to visit the South and led by the younger sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un, concludes its visit on Sunday after charming and intriguing the South Korean public, but still faces deep scepticism over Pyongyang's sincerity towards improving relations.

"I never thought I would visit (the South) so suddenly and believed much would be odd and different but I saw many things that were similar or the same", said Kim Yo Jong in a toast during Sunday's dinner, adding she hoped to meet the "friendly faces" before her later in Pyongyang.

Saturday's meeting also involved two other high-level delegates - Choe Hwi, the chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son-gwon, the head of the North's state agency in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

In response, Moon suggested the two Koreas "make it happen" by creating conditions necessary for him to accept the invitation, the spokesman told a news briefing.

The two Koreas, which remain technically at war, have cycled through countless periods of chill and thaw since their division 70 years ago.

Neither Trump nor Kim were present at the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Games. Of course, if North Korea moves forward with new provocations - such as missile or nuclear tests - all bets are off.

Choi Bok-mu, a fitness club manager at the Olympics athletes village in Gangneung, said he had not experienced any problems communicating with North Korean athletes, despite them speaking in a markedly different accent.

Neither did Pence shake hands with Kim Yong Nam while making a brief appearance at a leaders' reception ahead of the ceremony - although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did so.

It's highly unlikely that the luncheon will lead to an immediate breakthrough in global tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but just holding such a meeting seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.

The official said Pence and Moon did not discuss the North Koreans' invitation to Moon for a summit in Pyongyang, which would set the stage for the first meeting of Korean leaders in 10 years.

The North Korean leader's sister Kim Yo-jong has been in the spotlight since she arrived in South Korea for a three-day visit, attending the solemn Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Before leaving Japan for Korea, Pence announced that the US would unveil in coming days "the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever".

Although inter-Korean talks are occurring on the sidelines of the Olympics, Pence is confident that Seoul and Tokyo "are solidly with our alliance and the need to continue and intensify economic sanctions", the official said.

Kim Yo Jong, viewed as one of the closest aides to her brother, and Kim Yong Nam held rare talks with Moon on Saturday, during which she delivered a personal letter from her brother requesting that the president visit Pyongyang at an early date.

He has met with some North Korean defectors while there.

Kim Yo Jong is the only "full-blooded" sister of Kim Jong-un, who also has half-sisters, according to Sorensen and Madden.

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