Pence, who will lead the US delegation to the games' opening ceremonies on Friday, met Thursday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to press for a more clear-eyed approach toward the nuclear-armed neighbor to the north. Moon has looked at the games as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with North Korea a move the vice president cautioned against.
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. "It is a promise between the two countries and the foundation of our bilateral ties", Abe told reporters after meeting Moon in Pyeongchang, where he will attend the opening of the Winter Olympic Games.
It was the USA that appeared to be the one left in the cold, especially after the sister of the North Korean dictator extended an invitation from her brother for Moon to visit the North.
South Korean officials said Moon had been invited to Pyongyang to speak with Kim Jong Un during the talks and lunch that Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Saturday.
A renewed feud over the issue has frayed ties even as America's two key Asian allies confront the challenge of North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
Speaking with NBC's Lester Holt on the sidelines of the 23rd Olympic Winter Games, in PyeongChang, South Korea, Pence, who is leading the USA delegation there, made clear that the US was not ruling out military options as tensions continued to roil the Korean Peninsula.
"Special envoy Kim Yo Jong delivered a personal letter" from her brother stating his "wish to improve inter-Korean relations", said Moon's spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.
The North Korean delegates are set to return home Sunday.
Moon called for efforts to "create the right conditions to realise" such a visit, his spokesman said, urging Pyongyang to more actively seek dialogue with the US.
Saturday's meeting also involved the North's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, who led what apparently turned out to be a 21-member delegation to the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics on Friday. This was met with global sanctions as well as a flurry of insults between President Donald Trump and North Korean state media.
Pence avoided public criticism of Moon, congratulating South Korea on hosting the games and pledging continued support in addressing the North's nuclear threat.
But the prospect could sow division between the dovish leader, who has long argued for engagement with the nuclear-armed North to bring it to the negotiating table, and US President Donald Trump, who past year traded personal insults and threats of war with Kim.
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