South Korea Says North Willing to Talk to US

South Korea Says North Willing  to Talk to USSouth Korea Says North Willing  to Talk to US

North Korea is willing to hold talks with the United States, South Korean President Moon Jae-In said in a statement on Sunday.

The South Korean leader said he had met with the North Korean delegation in Pyeongchang before the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games, and told them that North Korea-US talks should happen "as soon as possible," CNN reported.

Moon said the North Koreans indicated they were willing to talk with the US, and agreed that "the inter-Korean relationship and North Korea-US relationship should develop together."

Moon met for an hour with the North Korean delegation at an undisclosed location in Pyeongchang at 5 pm local time Sunday, three hours before South Korea prepared to host the carefully-choreographed closing ceremony.

In his statement, Moon said he met all eight members of the delegation before speaking with North Korean delegation leader Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Party Central Committee and Ri Son Kwon, and chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.

As the lights dimmed in the stadium for the closing ceremony, delegates from North Korea and the US took their seats in the VIP box.

President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is attending the Olympics as a US Presidential Adviser, sat just feet away from North Korean delegation leader Kim Yong Chol.

A similar photo opportunity presented itself two weeks ago when US Vice President Mike Pence took his assigned seat for the opening ceremony, not far from Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

At that appearance, Pence looked stony-faced when the North and South Korean athletes entered the stadium. This time, Ivanka Trump stood up to applaud the combined team.

While the air was distinctly chilly when Pence was in South Korea—he later said he had intentionally ignored Kim Yo Jong—he has hinted at possible progress.

In comments first reported by the Washington Post, Pence said the US was open to talking but that "no pressure comes off until they are actually doing something that the alliance believes represents a meaningful step toward denuclearization."

"So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we'll talk," Pence said.

The US followed through on its promise of intensification on Friday, announcing a new raft of sanctions against 27 entities and 28 vessels either registered or flagged in several countries, including North Korea, China and Singapore.

The measures target the "deceptive shipping practices that have enabled the Kim regime to fund its dangerous weapons programs," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Asked whether he would rule out the United States boarding and inspecting North Korean ships, Mnuchin said, "No, I cannot rule that out."

North Korea said in a statement Sunday that it considers "any type of blockade an act of war against us."

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