Pence skips Olympic dinner with N Koreans in Pyeongchang

Pence skips Olympic dinner with N Koreans

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Mr Pence (L) has been meeting Fred Wartmbier (C), whose son Otto died after being released from jail in North Korea, and defector Ji Seong-ho (R)

US Vice-President Mike Pence has skipped a dinner at which he was due to share a table with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam.Mr Pence briefly encountered Kim Yong-nam but they tried to avoid directly facing each other, Yonhap reported.They were being hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in before the opening of the Winter Olympics.The US vice-president left the venue after five minutes, Yonhap said.South Korea’s Mr Moon has shaken hands with Kim Yong-nam.Kim Yong-nam and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong are attending the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.She is the first immediate member of the North’s ruling family to visit since the 1950-1953 Korean war.

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North Korea’s Kim Yong-nam (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands

While in South Korea, Mr Pence has met Fred Warmbier, the father of a US man who died after being released from prison in North Korea, and defector Ji Seong-ho.In a tweet, Mr Pence said he was “honoured to meet with victims of the oppressive North Korean regime” and hear their “harrowing stories”.North Korea at the Winter Olympics: All you need to know
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Ms Kim, who is said to be very close to her brother, was promoted to the North’s powerful politburo last year.She is on a US sanctions list over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea.Ms Kim is thought to be about 30 years old, around four years younger than her brother. Her visit is being seen as a sign that Kim Jong-un is serious about improving ties with the South, the BBC’s South Korea correspondent Laura Bicker reports.She adds that some are also speculating that Ms Kim might be bringing a message from her brother.
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Media captionWhat we’ve seen of Kim Yo-jong from North Korean mediaAt the Winter Olympics, both North and South Korea will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.Alongside 22 athletes, Pyongyang has sent more than 400 delegates to the Games, including a team of cheerleaders and an orchestra.The sports diplomacy comes at a time of improved relations between the two Koreas, although experts have cautioned that it does not put an end to underlying regional tensions.The Korean peninsula has been divided since the 1950-53 war and the two sides have never signed a peace treaty.