As two Koreas edge closer, USA and Japan grow wary


The senior diplomatic source said Pence "degraded the image of the United States as a superpower" by meeting with North Korean defectors along with Otto Warmbier's father, and by speaking strongly against North Korea on multiple occasions.

North and South Korean athletes marched in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony under a unified flag as Kim Yo Hong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister, was the first member of the dynasty to set foot in South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953.

In its first reports about the Games, North Korea's state-run media slammed U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday for what it called "shameful" and "snobbish" behavior not in line with the spirit of the Olympics.

U.S. vice president Mike Pence didn't discuss the invitation with Moon Saturday while they watched a speed-skating event, a senior White House official said.

At the Olympic opening ceremonies Friday, Mr. Pence made no contact with the North Korean political delegation, despite being seated a few metres from Ms. Kim.

A White House spokesman added that Mr Moon had told Mr Pence no one would take pressure off North Korea until it takes steps to denuclearisation.

The figure marked no change from a week earlier, but the latest reading came amid an apparent thaw in the South-North relationship.

Over the weekend, Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un visited Seoul and met with President Moon Jae-in, a historic first by any member of the ruling Kim family and the most significant diplomatic development in the Kim Jong Un era.

North Korea considers the US its sole counterparty in negotiations over its nuclear program.

After delivering an invitation for Moon to visit Pyongyang earlier on Saturday, Kim arrived dressed in a black fur-collared coat and took her seat next to North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, with Olympic chief Thomas Bach also present.

Wearing matching uniforms of red, the "army of beauties", as they have been dubbed in South Korea, performed perfectly synchronised routines and songs from the stands, much to the amusement of the crowds and press. He supported Pence's moves to meet with North Korean defectors, paying respects at a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack blamed on the North. Pence also invited as his Olympics guest the father of USA college student Otto Warmbier, who died after he was imprisoned by North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster. His son Otto was jailed in North Korea and died upon his return to the United States previous year after suffering extensive brain damage. The article reiterated that the North's decision to send delegates to the South had nothing to do with an attempt to approach the United States for talks.

As the Winter Olympics formally opened with Friday's Opening Ceremonies, the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee said its servers were being hacked by an unidentified attacker.

"The vice-president is grateful that President Moon reaffirmed his strong commitment to the global maximum pressure campaign and for his support for continued sanctions", Pence's spokesperson said in response.

Deepening the odd-man-out optics for Pence, Moon and Kim, smiling broadly, exchanged a handshake and cheered the team enthusiastically.

Still, North Korea has shown no signs it's willing to discuss denuclearization.

When he was returned to the U.S., he had horrific brain injuries which his family attributed to him being tortured by the Kim Jong Un's regime. She also repeated the invitation directly to Moon to visit at a time convenient to him, he said. Moon shook Kim's hand; Pence stared forward and refused to engage with her.

"It's a breakthrough", said Michael Breen, the author of Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader.