Pence's bid to isolate North Korea falls flat

In cold, poor South Korean mountains, Winter Olympics begin

The march of athletes from the world's many nations saw them girded against a frigid Korean night with temperatures that dipped below freezing and biting winds.

The two Koreas technically remain at war, as the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Pence used the occasion to highlight Washington's intention to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

How will the USA react? This was not supposed to be, as some in Seoul grumble, the "Pyongyang Games", a play on the North Korean capital's phonetic similarity to Pyeongchang.

The IOC has been working to arrange North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Olympics, the first Winter Games in South Korea.

The lunch Saturday at Seoul's presidential mansion between Moon and Kim Yo Jong was the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.

Pence's tweeted day-after position: "The U.S. will not allow the propaganda charade by the North Korean regime to go unchallenged on the world stage".

A huge crowd gathered in the freezing Olympics Stadium in this isolated, mountainous corner of South Korea, as performances displayed the sweep of Korean history and culture.

The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries' senior officials.

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.

But Pyongyang's nuclear programme will hang over any attempts to bring the countries closer together.

That said, these officials said that if the North Koreans had approached Pence with pleasantries, he would have responded in kind.

However, analyst Robert E Kelly of Pusan National University tweeted that the inter-Korean relations would "return to form". He also said the ceremonies were not the appropriate venue for serious talks. There have been some such meetings in the past, but they are rare.

The highest profile member of the North Korean delegation to the Games, she is the first immediate member of the North's ruling family to visit the South since the 1950-1953 Korean war.

Kim won Korea's only figure skating gold medal with her performance at the Vancouver Games and while she has always been the hot favourite for the role at Friday's opening ceremony she said it had only been confirmed a couple of months earlier.

She is on a U.S. sanctions list over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea. A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis.

"We wanted the North Koreans to see the vice president, Abe and Moon sitting directly in front of them for the opening ceremonies, and it would show that that alliance is strong". International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach then handed the podium to Moon, who declared the Olympics officially open.

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