'Good chance' South Korean President will be invited to North Korea

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Pence met with President Moon Jae-in to advocate a clear-eyed approach toward his bellicose, nuclear-armed neighbor, warning against North Korean "propaganda" around the games.

The UN Security Council on Thursday gave permission for a North Korean official under worldwide sanctions to travel to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics along with Kim Jong Un's sister, diplomats said. They have been dubbed the "army of beauties", apparently handpicked for their looks by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un himself.

Following Moon's statement, Pence told reporters that there were "many issues to discuss" between the USA and South Korea, chief among which is "our shared objective of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

Abe echoed Pence's comments through a translator, urging countries "not to be lured by the charm offensive of North Korea".

According to Kim, Pence's decision to invite Warmbier to the Games was meant to remind the global community of the North's provocative actions and rights abuses, despite what he said was a bid by Pyongyang to "improve their image in Pyeongchang".

"President Moon will receive the North Korean delegation and have lunch with them on February 10", Kim Eui-kyeom told journalists, without disclosing the venue for the meal.

Aides acknowledged that the hard-nosed message is an unusual one for the affable Pence, but said the circumstances warrant the tone.

More than 10,000 troops trained for the parade at a military airfield for several weeks and residents had practiced in plazas around the North Korean capital with bouquets of plastic flowers to spell out slogans during the parade.

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The two leaders reaffirmed the alliance between the US and South Korea.

The Winter Olympics, which will take place just 80km south of the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, have triggered a rapid rapprochement on the peninsula, although analysts warn that warmer relations may not last long beyond the games. The leader's half brother, Kim Jong Nam, was assassinated past year by what were believed to be North Korean agents at an airport in Malaysia.

The North Korean 22-member Olympic delegation will be headed by Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of North Korea's Parliament, who serves as a nominal head of state. A North Korean Foreign Ministry official seemed to rule out a potential meeting with US officials in the North's state-run media on Thursday, but Pence suggested to reporters that it was still a possibility.

It remained unclear whether Kim would be carrying a message from her brother to Moon, who has said he is willing to meet Kim Jong Un if he is reasonably sure that such a meeting would help end the crisis over the North's nuclear weapons and missile development.

A 229-member strong, all-female cheering section arrived from North Korea on Wednesday for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

She was placed on the U.S. Treasury's specially designated nationals list in January 2017 because of human rights abuses.

There had been hopes the event would provide a chance for senior figures from the Kim regime to open up a dialogue with USA representatives, if only on the sidelines. "Those who dare raise their voices in dissent are imprisoned, tortured and even murdered, and their children and grandchildren are routinely punished for their family's sins against the state".

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