Amid Olympic thaw, Pence says allies united in isolating North Korea

Defection fears at the Winter Olympics

Mike Pence protested North Korean athletes in a pretty familiar way

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, headed home Sunday after a whirlwind trip to the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in had "virtually accepted" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation to Pyongyang, officials said on Saturday, making way for a first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister comes home Sunday night after an eventful three days in South Korea, where she sat among some of the world's top-officials at the Olympics and made a diplomatic offer to the South meant to end seven decades of hostility.

However, no member of North Korea's ruling family has ever before visited the Blue House, which is near where North Korea founder Kim Il Sung - Kim Yo Jong's grandfather - sent dozens of commandos to assassinate former South Korean military strongman Park Chung-hee in 1968.

But the prospect could sow division between the dovish leader, who has long argued for engagement with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and US President Donald Trump, who previous year traded personal insults and threats of war with Kim.

The North Korean delegation arrived in the South on Kim's private plane on Friday via Incheon global airport to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyongchang Winter Olympics where Seoul and Pyongyang are represented by joint teams.

But US Vice President Mike Pence, who was seated in the same box at the opening ceremony, did not interact with the North Koreans at any point, US officials said.

This photo, taken on February 10, 2018, shows President Moon Jae-in (R) receiving North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's letter from Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of the North's ruler, at Cheong Wa Dae.

On Saturday Kim Yo Jong "courteously" handed over a personal letter from the North Korean leader to Moon and told him of her brother's "intention", North Korea's state news agency KCNA said, without elaborating what that was.

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Kim Yo Jong claps next to Kim Yong Nam at the Switzerland v Korea women's hockey game on February 10, 2018.

North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam also partook in the historic luncheon with Moon.

After the opening ceremony, the North Korean delegates moved to Seoul and spent the night at the Walkerhill hotel, a riverside facility named after late U.S. Army commander Walton Walker, who's considered a Korean War hero in the South.

The offer could put Moon in a delicate diplomatic quandary, but he avoided a direct response, said his spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, and called instead for efforts to "create the right conditions" for a visit. "And he is encouraging both sides to come together".

Angela Ruggiero, a four-times ice hockey world champion and Olympic gold medallist, told Reuters she would ask others to nominate the team, which included 12 players from North Korea which is still technically at war with the South.

"We should firmly keep in mind that any talks where denuclearization is not a precondition only buy North Korea more time to complete its nuclear capabilities while they fool us with their peace offensive façade", said Chang Je-won, spokesman for the Liberty Korea Party.

Japanese editorials sounded a similar warning, saying dialogue would be meaningless unless it led to denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. "Moon should be aware that he has to urge denuclearisation to North Korea by himself, not depending on dialogue between the US and North Korea", an editorial in the Yomiuri Newspaper read.

"Kim's proposal for a summit with Moon is based on the premise that the North will stick to its nuclear weapons while seeking rapprochement with the South", he told AFP.

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