North Korea is already using the Olympics for propaganda

North Korea is already using the Olympics for propaganda

The United States insisted it would continue its policy of exerting worldwide pressure on North Korea in an effort to get it to abandon its nuclear program.

North and South Korean athletes marched in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony under a unified flag as Kim Yo Hong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister, was the first member of the dynasty to set foot in South Korea since the Korean War ended in 1953.

For about a week, Pence and his press people have been promoting how the VP was going to stand up to the North Korean propaganda machine and deny them their opportunity to "hijack the message and imagery" of the Games, but the political story of the Games so far has been the continued signs of a significant thaw between Pyongyang and South Korea, the staunch USA ally.

Visiting US Vice President Mike Pence did not engage with the North Korean representatives just a few seats away at the opening ceremony, and did not get up to cheer when athletes from the host nation and its neighbour entered the arena together behind a unification flag.

Pence and the North Koreans have been an awkward presence at the Games to say the least.

But there seems to be a diplomatic thawing between North and South Korea.

On September 3 2017 North Korea detonated its most powerful nuclear blast to date, sending tensions on the peninsula higher than a mushroom cloud.

Moon gave qualified consent to holding a future summit with Kim, the first between the two Koreas since 2007.

In Kim Jong Un's New Year's message, his previously hostile tone toward South Korea had become much more friendly. He supported Pence's moves to meet with North Korean defectors, paying respects at a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack blamed on the North. Pence also invited as his Olympics guest the father of US college student Otto Warmbier, who died after he was imprisoned by North Korea for stealing a propaganda poster.

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".

Moon, for his part, may find the offer of talks with Kim tempting amid mounting conflicts with Japan, China, and the U.S. Such conflicts include disagreement with Japan over the "comfort women" issue; with the U.S. over the Trump administration's desire to review the U.S. free-trade pact with South Korea; and with China over concerns about Korea's deployment of U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile technology.

After the meeting, South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Kim Yo Jong had delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un, inviting Moon to Pyongyang "soon" for talks.

Although inter-Korean talks are occurring on the sidelines of the Olympics, Pence is confident that Seoul and Tokyo "are solidly with our alliance and the need to continue and intensify economic sanctions", the official said.

The speed of the Olympics-driven rapprochement across the Demilitarized Zone that has divided North and South since the end of the Korean war has been extraordinary.

Kim Jong Un dispatched his 30-year-old sister, Kim Yo Jong, as part of the delegation. Moon's office initially provided conflicting accounts of whether he accepted the invitation, with a Blue House spokesperson later clarifying that pre-conditions first needed to be met.

Even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has shared the American skepticism of warming inter-Korean relations and pressed Moon against falling for the North's "smile diplomacy", greeted Kim Yong Nam. Moon's chief of staff held a farewell dinner for the delegation before the delegation attended a performance by a North Korean orchestra, the last item on their itinerary before heading home. The attraction? Well, they're called the "Army of Beauties", North Korea's famed national cheerleading squad.

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