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Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
Tech | By Dwayne Harmon

Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say

Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say

In a historic move, South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed senior North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong, to the presidential palace for a lunch meeting on Saturday. "One of the main reasons North Korean athletes don't defect is due to their families back in North Korea", Benjamin Young, a doctoral candidate at George Washington University who has researched sports in North Korea, told ABC News' Mae Joo. NBC's viewership peaked at 31.5 million when the US team entered the stadium in South Korea. They said Pence could have opted to sit with the U.S. delegation and avoided the box that included the North Koreans.

Pence had said all week that if he met with the North Koreans, he would deliver a tough message. That part is yet to be determined, as politicians, analysts and curious citizens debate whether the North Koreans' amicable presence at these Olympics is legitimate or simply the latest version of a "charm offensive" from the dictatorship, a calculated move created to engender global support and separate South Korea from its alliance with the United States. He left the reception five minutes later.

"South Korea has some hard homework to solve regarding some countries", Mr Moon said before Mr Pence arrived. The opening in Pyeongchang had 6 percent more viewers than the Summer Olympics ceremony in Rio de Janiero in 2016, and it was the most watched Friday night on television since Sochi's first night four years ago.

Of course, some would say the more important developments were taking place in the VIP box.

In a rare public moment, President Moon shook hands with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un, at start of the opening ceremony.

But Moon has also said that he would be willing to meet Kim only if he received assurances from the North that it would help resolve the crisis over the North's nuclear weapons program.

Pence, by contrast, avoided speaking with North Korean officials Friday, and he and his wife did not stand, as most spectators did, when the athletes from both Koreas marched together under a flag representing a unified Korea. Speaking to NBC's "Nightly News" on Thursday, the vice president continued to stress that the United States would protect itself from North Korean nuclear threats by taking whatever "action is necessary to defend our homeland".

The vice president's visit was also marked by bad blood between Pence and some US athletes.

"The grievances that the world has about North Korea are very legitimate", Frank Jannuzi, an expert on East Asia at the Mansfield Foundation told the AP. "Eat your heart out, Pence", Kenworthy wrote. In an appearance on Ellen earlier this month, Kenworthy called out Pence, saying he has "directly attacked the LGBT community".

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