Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say

Elias Hubbard
February 10, 2018

In order to remind the world, especially South Koreans who may be buoyed by resumption of inter-Korean dialogue, Vice President Mike Pence arrived to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics with a living exhibit of North Korean brutality: the father of an American student who went to North Korea as a tourist and returned home in a coma from which he never awoke.

Though temporarily mollified, Trump's anger at South Korea was apparent in his State of the Union address that focused on the "depravity" of the North Korean regime and asked for maximum pressure from Seoul.

The officials said it was fair to say both Pence and the North Koreans rebuffed South Korean President Moon Jae-in's efforts to facilitate a meeting between North Korea and the US.

The delegation gave Moon a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inviting him to visit the North, a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and Moon had affirmed their shared stance of maximizing pressure on Pyongyang until it scraps its nuclear program. Moon had said "let's create conditions to make it happen", the official said, an indication that Moon was likely to accept the invitation. Mike Pence, the USA vice-president, has largely avoided North Korean officials at the Games and warned Seoul to be wary of its diplomatic efforts. "That's the team he's going to be cheering for all Olympics".

Sean Haffey  Pool
Sean Haffey Pool

Pence had said all week that if he met with the North Koreans, he would deliver a tough message.

North Korea has spent years developing its military, saying it needs to protect itself from USA aggression. U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded insults as tensions rose.

The two Koreas have a rocky and sometimes violent history at the Blue House.

Kim Yo Jong, 28, is the first member of the ruling Kim family bearing the bloodline of the sacred Mount Paektu, a centrepiece of the North's idolisation and propaganda campaign, to cross the border into the South since the 1950-53 Korean War. Speaking to NBC's "Nightly News" on Thursday, the vice president continued to stress that the USA would protect itself from North Korean nuclear threats by taking whatever "action is necessary to defend our homeland". Pence had also avoided shaking hands with or sitting next to Kim Yong Nam at a reception before the start of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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