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Pence to visit memorial for torpedoed warship, underscoring danger of North Korea

10 February 2018

Vice President Mike Pence did not deliberately snub North Koreans at an Olympic reception, according to USA officials who pushed back on South Korean reports that Pence deliberately came late to a VIP gathering Friday evening and then snubbed officials from Pyongyang.

The group included Kim Yong Nam, who is the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Kim Yo Jong - the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Pence sat stone-faced in his seat as Moon and North Koreans officials stood together with much of the stadium to applaud their joint team of athletes.

But Pence has not let up on the tough rhetoric he's been delivering since arriving in Asia.

They were seated not far from a section of North Korean cheerleaders who are attending the Olympics in a sign of warming ties between the two Koreas that Pence and other US officials have warned against.

Earlier, Moon warmly greeted North Korea's 90-year-old nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, as they attended the VIP reception.

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Susan Dunklee was the highest-finishing American, coming in 14th place at 21 minutes, 48.3 seconds - 41.5 seconds behind Kuzmina. She completed the women's 7.5km sprint in 21 minutes and 30.4 seconds, but did have a penalty in one of the prone targets.

"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 spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said when asked about the developments.

This item corrects that Kim Yo Jong is the leader's sister.

As it turned out, with the two Koreas celebrating a moment of unity, the United States was left outmaneuvered by an adversary and out of step with an ally.

Kim Yo Jong, a powerful figure in the North, is the first member of the ruling Kim dynasty to visit the South since the 1950-53 Korean war. Rumors are swirling that she could be carrying an offer for Moon to travel to North Korea.

Mr Pence had kept open the possibility for some contact with the North Koreans in South Korea, while reiterating Washington's insistence that denuclearisation by North Korea is a necessary condition for permanent peace. North Korea has jumped at the opportunity.

American officials attempted to paint a rosier picture of Friday's ceremony as showing solidarity among allies.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are speaking while watching Olympic speedskaters compete, hours after Moon received a historic invitation to visit North Korea.

The officials, who spoke on condition because they were not authorized to discuss the USA approach publicly, also denied that Pence had been blindsided by the seating arrangement - with the North Koreans in the row behind him, allowing Kim Yo Jong to be easily pictured in profile next to the vice president.

The outfits include Zhivago-style fur pillbox hats (one might say they look more like they'd belong to another authoritarian regime north of the Korean Peninsula), ruby red car-length coats with black fur stoles, black leather gloves, and booties.

Saturday's meeting was the first time a South Korean president hosted North Korean officials at the Blue House since 2007.

Moon has invited Kim and other senior North Korean officials to a luncheon at Seoul's presidential palace on Saturday.

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Pence to visit memorial for torpedoed warship, underscoring danger of North Korea