South Korea's president holds lunch for Kim Jong Un's sister

Torchbearers bring the olympic flame to the cauldron

But North Korea has a habit of not letting itself be ignored when it comes to its southern rival.

The two Koreas marched together and South Korea's president shared a historic handshake with Kim Jong Un's sister as the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opened in a spirit of intense rapprochement on Friday.

Iran has rejected the International Olympic Committee's decision to allow its athletes to take away the Olympic edition of the Samsung Galaxy Note8, the latest escalation in a diplomatic row over the IOC's earlier decision to block the Iranian team from receiving the limited edition phone. "The specter of war is hanging over these games". A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis.

The vice president has struck a hard line against North Korea during his trip to the Olympics in an effort to call what White House officials have dubbed a "charm offensive" by the North.

With that, he had met with all the delegates and heads of state from the four key powers in the region, minus Russian Federation, since he'd met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese Special Envoy Han Zheng just a day before.

But Tonga's Pita Taufatofua, echoing his eye-catching entrance at the Rio Olympics, happily braved the chill as he appeared stripped to the waist and with his chest heavily oiled.Expectations are sky-high for an array of stars at Pyeongchang, including American skiers Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, while the drama in figure skating centres on whether Japan's "Ice Prince" Yuzuru Hanyu can recover from injury to retain his crown.

The personal invitation from Kim was delivered by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, during talks and a lunch Moon hosted at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Hundreds of anti-North Korea protesters scuffled with riot police not far from the stadium before the opening ceremony began, with some banners reading "Moon regime is leading Korea to destruction".

"The presidential spokesman explained that Kim Yo-jong, deputy director of the propaganda department of the Workers' Party, came to South Korea as Kim Jong-un's special envoy". He'd been dispatched from Washington for the Olympics in part, he said, to make sure the world didn't forget that North Korea was a misbehaving and unsafe neighbor in the community of nations.

Eager to put a reality check on the thaw in relations between the Koreas, Pence met with North Korean defectors on Friday and paid his respects at the Cheonan Memorial in Pyeongtaek, which honours the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack blamed on the North.

The visual was important, a U.S. official said.

Erick W. Rasco
Erick W. Rasco

He also reiterated the Trump administration's stance that the USA would take whatever "action is necessary to defend our homeland", including military operations, as it seeks to denuclearise the North. Then, the vice president's tour around the Cheonan Memorial with Warmbier and North Korean defectors provided a sobering pregame to the Olympic opening ceremony's technicolored presentation of peace and cooperation.

Public opinion polls found slightly more than 50 per cent of Japanese were in favour of Abe's visit, but critics say the pollsters asked incomplete or misleading questions.

"I think this overture towards South Korea is partly sanctions-related, and also related to the fact that it's clear a divergence has developed between Washington and Seoul's most keenly desired goals in the near term", said Andray Abrahamian, a research fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Hawaii.

Samsung billboards and flagship stores are seen all over Iran, and the South Korean company has sponsored many large-scale cultural events, including the current exhibition at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Some have speculated that it could contain a message from the North Korean dictator.

North Korea has spent years developing its military, saying it needs to protect itself from U.S. aggression.

Pence insisted, "There is no daylight between South Korea and the United States".

The Games are taking place amid tension over North Korea's nuclear programme, the BBC reports.

But experts already have their eye on what's going to happen after the games. He also stressed the need for the communist state to resume its dialogue with the United States, Yonhap reported.

"Once we get closer to April, there's probably about a 40 to 50 percent chance of a military escalation whether accidental or deliberate on either side", Kazianis said.

After two failed Olympic bids that emphasized the high-sounding notion that the games could help make peace with North Korea, Pyeongchang finally sold its successful try in 2011 on the decidedly capitalistic goal of boosting winter sports tourism in Asia.

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