Pence heads to Olympics with stern message for N Korea

IOC President Thomas Bach speaks during the opening ceremony of the 132nd IOC session ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung South Korea Monday Feb. 5 2018

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stopped briefly in Alaska Monday evening, meeting with aerospace and missile defense leaders before briefly taking questions from local reporters and heading to the Winter Olympic Games.

Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea and died a year ago after returning to the United States in a coma, will be Pence's designated special guest at the opening ceremony.

Mr Warmbier is travelling as a guest of the vice president, and his presence is being seen as a signal to Pyongyang that Washington has no intention of easing the pressure on the regime of Kim Jong-un over its human rights record.

Commenting on the possible meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "We'll have to see what happens".

Trump spoke separately on the telephone with the Japanese and South Korean leaders on Friday, mainly discussing the situation with North Korea.

"They do want to send out strong messages to counter North Korea's propaganda arm", said Patrick Cronin, director of the Center for a New American Security's Asia-Pacific security program.

Fred Warmbier has accused North Korea of torturing his son.

Kim Yong-Nam will be the highest-level Northern official to visit the South since 2014.

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North Korea told the South that the 280-member group, which plans to cross the land border Wednesday morning, will also include officials from North Korea's Olympic committee, journalists and members of a taekwondo demonstration team, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

Seoul banned all North Korean ships entering its ports and cut off most inter-Korean exchanges, including tourism, trade and aid, in 2010 in the wake of a torpedo attack on a South Korean navy warship that killed 46 sailors.

"In a phone conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump, Moon expressed hope that Vice President Mike Pence's visit to South Korea will be a milestone in the process of building peace".

While acknowledging the heightened tension, Seoul said Sunday that it believes the door for dialogue still remains open.

That set off a rapid series of meetings which saw the two agree to march together at the opening ceremony and form a unified women's ice hockey team, their first for 27 years.

What are relations like between North and South Korea? He'll also be visiting Japan and South Korea.

During her stay in South Korea, Ivanka will attend some of the Olympic events.

The ferry had also been suspected by Japan and others of being used to smuggle parts for Pyongyang's illicit nuclear and missile programmes.

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