Sunday, 18 February, 2018

South Korea's Moon hosts talks with North Korean leader's sister

Faye Gross | 12 February, 2018, 01:40

South Korean President Moon Jae-in sat next to the powerful sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un at a concert in Seoul by musicians from Pyongyang, as conservative protesters burned the North's national flag outside on Sunday.

As the first immediate member of the North's ruling family to visit South Korea, Kim was swarmed by the local news media.

Camera flashes; mobs of reporters: Through it all, Kim has maintained a placid smile - and despite Pence's stated intention to reinforce North Korea's isolation during his Olympic visit, the sister of the repressive regime's leader seems to have spent at least as much time with Moon as Pence did.

It is rare for the North's official media to refer to the South's leader as president, usually describing them as chief executive or similar, and even more unusual for a picture of them to be shown.

Any summit between the two still-officially warring Koreas would be a coup for Moon, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

One key question of her visit was what message she would convey from her brother over inter-Korean ties amid a reconciliatory mood between the two Koreas surrounding the North's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

"Kim Jong Un is clearly serious about reviving talks with the South to improve relations", said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and a security adviser to Moon.

In a surreal mixture of dignitaries, the Olympic Stadium's VIP box included Kim Yo Jong and North Korea's nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, sitting above and behind U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and fellow hard-liner Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister.

A White House official said although Moon did not discuss the invitation with Pence, the South Korean president made it very clear that only when North Korea actually starts to take steps to denuclearize would anyone even consider beginning to take the pressure off.

3 people killed in helicopter crash near Grand Canyon
He said National Transportation Safety Board officials were expected at the crash scene to begin investigating the cause. The four survivors were airlifted to a Nevada hospital while crews were recovering the three bodies, authorities said.


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.

Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom cited Moon as replying: "Let's create the environment for that to be able to happen".

Sunday's KCNA report cited Moon as saying inter-Korean relations should be mended by the parties concerned "at any cost as indicated by Chairman Kim Jong Un in his New Year Address".

The event, cheered by the crowd at the Gangwon Career Education Institute in Sokcho, featured teams from both countries performing for 25 minutes before briefly joining together as one.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to set foot in this country since the north and south were divided and her grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founded North Korea.

South Korea suggested the formation of a joint team as part of its efforts to use the Games to re-engage with the North and pave the way for talks over the North's weapons programme.

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

Moon did not immediately accept the offer, calling instead for efforts to "create the right conditions to realise" such a visit and urging Pyongyang to actively seek dialogue with the U.S., he added.

"What can not be overlooked is that Moon did not directly demand North Korea to abandon its nuclear development".

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