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Are these Winter Games having the effect South Korea had hoped, in thawing relations with the north?

Vice President Mike Pence was at pains to insist that Washington and Seoul were on the same page as he returned to Washington from leading the USA delegation to the Olympics.

Pence left South Korea Saturday night, flying out of Pyeongchang after attending a short-track speedskating event with Moon - who then went to watch ice hockey along with Kim and the North Korean delegation.

Moon replied: "Our meeting was precious".

The officials, who spoke on condition because they were not authorized to discuss the US approach publicly, also denied that Pence had been blindsided by the seating arrangement - with the North Koreans in the row behind him, allowing Kim Yo Jong to be easily pictured in profile next to the vice-president. It warned against agreeing to talks before North Korea scrapped its nuclear program, saying it would only "benefit the enemy".

In December, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's offered to start talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, but the State Department later said there would first have to be a "period of calm" in which Pyongyang suspends testing before any negotiations could begin. He also called for the need of a quick resumption of dialogue between North Korea and the United States.

For its part, Japan has made clear that it favors the swift resumption of joint US-South Korean military exercises, which had been put off until after the Olympics in an effort to smooth the path for North Korea's participation at PyeongChang.

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By also sending a youthful, photogenic individual who would surely draw worldwide attention at the Olympics, Kim might have also been trying to construct a fresher image of the country, particularly in face of US efforts to use the Olympics as an occasion to highlight the North's brutal human rights record.

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"The grievances that the world has about North Korea are very legitimate".

The Koreas previously held summits in 2000 and 2007, both hosted in Pyongyang by Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's late father. Reviving inter-Korean dialogue is critical for the policies of Moon, who insists that Seoul should be in control in global efforts to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue.

Mattis also said he doubted that the sporting rapprochement would undermine US-South Korean ties.

Camera flashes; mobs of reporters: Through it all, Kim has maintained a placid smile - and despite Pence's stated intention to reinforce North Korea's isolation during his Olympic visit, the sister of the repressive regime's leader seems to have spent at least as much time with Moon as Pence did.

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