The White House said any talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea(DPRK) must lead to an end to its nuclear program after senior officials from Pyongyang visiting South Korea said on Sunday their government was open to talks with the United States.
The DPRK's delegation, in Pyeongchang for the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, met at an undisclosed location with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and expressed a willingness to meet with the United States, Moon’s office said in a statement.
The Pyongyang delegation said developments in relations between the two Koreas and between DPRK and the United States should go hand in hand, according to the statement.
The Olympics gave a boost to recent engagement between the two Koreas after more than a year of sharply rising tensions over DPRK’s missile program and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. sanctions.
The United States announced on Friday it was imposing its largest package of sanctions aimed at getting DPRK to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
On Sunday, DPRK's state media accused the United States of provoking confrontation on the Korean peninsula with the sanctions.
The White House said its sanctions would continue.
“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” the White House said in a statement.
“In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea(DPRK)’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” it said.
No interaction with Ivanka Trump
Moon, the DPRK's delegation, and Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter, were among dignitaries who attended the Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday.
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Closing ceremony - Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 25, 2018 - President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, Ivanka Trump, senior White House adviser, and member of the DPRK delegation, Kim Yong-chol, attend the closing ceremony.
Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser, did not interact with the DPRK's delegation, a senior U.S. administration official said. She met Moon on Friday as part of a weekend trip leading the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony.
DPRK sent former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol to lead its delegation. Moon met Kim in Pyeongchang, where the Olympics were held, before the closing ceremony, the South Korean government said.
Earlier, about 100 conservative South Korean lawmakers and activists staged a sit-in near the border with DPRK, to protest Kim’s arrival and facing off against about 2,500 South Korean police.
DPRK’s delegation took a different route, prompting the opposition Korea Liberty Party to accuse Moon’s administration of “abuse of power and an act of treason” by rerouting the motorcade to shield it from the protest.
DPRK sent Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of DPRK's leader Kim Jong Un, to the opening ceremony.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and DPRK's Kim Yo Jong, the sister to DPRK's leader Kim Jong-Un, attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 9, 2018.
She was the center of a frenzy of attention, especially when she appeared at the opening ceremony and was only a few feet from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. They did not speak.
Kim Yo Jong and DPRK’s nominal head of state were the most senior DPRK officials to visit the South in more than a decade.
The DPRK leader later said he wanted to create a “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue.”
The U.S. president, in announcing the new sanctions on Friday, warned of a “phase two” that could be “very, very unfortunate for the world” if the sanctions did not work.
DPRK denounced the sanctions in a statement carried on its state media and said a blockade by the United States would be considered an act of war.
Moon won election last year promising to try to improve relations with DPRK.