Fri, 09 Feb 2018 14:25 - Updated Fri, 09 Feb 2018 14:25
Pence avoids encounter with North Korean official as Olympics begin
SEOUL - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made only a brief appearance at a reception marking the start of the Winter Olympics on Friday, avoiding a potentially awkward encounter with the ceremonial leader of North Korea attending the same event.
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The reception hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang was the culmination of months of work by Seoul, which seeks to use the Olympics to ease tension spurred by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Ahead of the reception, South Korean media said Pence was expected to be seated opposite Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, at the 12-seat head table.
However, South Korea’s presidental Blue House said Pence had a meeting scheduled with U.S. athletes and had only planned to stay briefly to greet other officials.
Pence shook hands with other leaders, including close ally Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but not Kim Yong Nam, according to a Blue House pool report.
Earlier on Friday, Pence said Moon gave his backing to additional measures the United States is planning to try to curb North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
Pence spoke after paying tribute at a memorial for 46 South Korean sailors killed in the sinking of a warship in 2010 that Seoul blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.
Kim Yong Nam landed in South Korea on Friday along with leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, aboard her brother’s private jet.
The white aircraft had the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name, inscribed in black in Korean on its side, followed by the North Korean flag.
Kim Yo Jong and her delegation were greeted by government officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon, before boarding a bullet train to Pyeongchang. A special train had been prepared just for the visitors, a Blue House pool report said,REUTERS.
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