Pence pushes S. Korea toward more hawkish N. Korea policy

Winter Olympics 2018

Winter Olympics 2018

North Korea has no intention of meeting USA officials during the Winter Olympics that start in South Korea on Friday, state media said, dampening hopes the Games will help resolve a tense standoff over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Kim Yo-jong will become the first member of her family to step foot in South Korea when she arrives as part of North Korea's delegation, amid speculation she will deliver a message to politicians from Kim Jong-un.

"We are not going to use such a sports festival as the Winter Olympics as a political lever", a top Foreign Ministry official said Thursday, the North's state-run media reported.

Pence, who is leading the USA delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea later this week, says to Abe that aside from which group of athletes they will be cheering for at the games, "I expect we'll be agreeing on just about everything else".

Experts say it's likely North Korea will continue to ignore U.S. demands for it to halt its nuclear and missile programs.

However, the North's high-ranking delegation, including the younger sister of its leader Kim Jong Un, will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and have lunch with him on Saturday.

In January 2015, she reportedly married Choe Songthe second son of government official Choe Ryong-hae. "This raises worries that North Korea likely intends to use this Olympics as a propaganda tool, rather than a possible opening to meaningful dialogue with South Korea".

"Let me say President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven't requested any meeting".

In January 2017, the US Treasury blacklisted Kim Yo-jong along with other North Korean officials over "severe human rights abuses".

Pence said his message about North Korea would be the same, "whatever the setting, whoever is present. Our delegation's visit to South Korea is only to take part in the Olympics and hail its successful holding".

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Kim's government said it now has the capability of launching a rocket that could strike the United States mainland. About 13,000 troops participated while 50,000 spectators watched the event that started around 10:30 a.m., the Yonhap News Agency said, citing an unidentified South Korean government source.

Both Japan and South Korea are considered cornerstones of US security and economic relationships in Asia.

In retaliation, the United Nations and the U.S. have imposed punishing economic sanctions meant to choke off funding for its weapons programs.

The hermit kingdom is also preparing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military on 8 February, just one day before the Olympics begins.

Eager to put a reality check on the thaw in relations, Pence will meet Friday morning with North Korean defectors and pay respects at the Cheonan Memorial in Seoul, which honors the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North.

But privately, officials said, Pence expressed concern to Moon about his more conciliatory tone toward North Korea.

The interim U.S. envoy said Washington supported North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Games as it would allow the country's leaders to see "what good things accrue when they decide to rejoin the global community and make the right decisions".

The meeting follows a military parade from North Korea today that was originally scheduled for April.

It is due to attend the Games' opening ceremony on Friday, as is US Vice President Mike Pence.

Tanks, missile launchers, armoured vehicles, artillery pieces and up to 13,000 soldiers are marching for Kim Jong-un in a display of might to the West. But Pence is trying to keep the focus on North Korea's threatening behavior and continue to pressure the regime with sanctions.

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