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US VICE-President Milke Pence pressed South Korea to take a harder line with the North today before tomorrow’s opening of the Winter Olympic Games “of peace.”
With North and South Korea fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team and hundreds of North Korean musicians and martial artists set to perform, the Pyeongchang games have become a symbol of peace.
But hawkish Mr Pence warned South Korean President Moon Jae In not to allow Pyongyang to use the games for “propaganda,” repeating bellicose rhetoric he had spouted in Japan the day before.
Welcoming Mr Pence to the presidential Blue House, Mr Moon called the landmark sporting event the “Olympic Games of peace.”
He said he hoped they would become “a venue that leads to dialogue for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”
However, Mr Pence complained that previous attempts at detente with Pyongyang had been met with “wilful deception, broken promises and endless and escalating provocations.”
The US has repeatedly reneged on its obligations under treaties with North Korea, requiring the latter to end its nuclear weapons programme.
The US vice-president announced on yesterday that his country would impose the “toughest and most aggressive sanctions yet” on North Korea, which now claims to have the capability to obliterate Washington.
In a further snub to Mr Pence, Mr Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom said the president would have lunch with North Korean officials attending tomorrow’s opening ceremony.
They include dynastic dictator Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, deputy director of the ruling Workers Party central committee, and Kim Yong Nam, who heads the presidium of the North’s legislature.
Mr Pence insisted that, despite disagreements over their stance towards the North, the alliance between the US and South Korea was “strong.”
A North Korean Foreign Ministry said the country’s delegation had “no intention” of meeting the US visitors, but the US vice-president refused to rule out a casual encounter, while reiterating: “North Korea needs to once and for all abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.”
Mr Kim presided over a military parade in Pyongyang today to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the regime’s armed forces.
In an apparent bid to keep Olympic co-operation on track, however, the event was lower key than previous parades, with few missiles on display and national TV only showing highlights later in the day.
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