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Pence avoids meeting top N. Korean official

Reuters

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, foreground, North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, left background, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday.

ReutersSEOUL/PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made only a brief appearance at a reception marking the start of the Winter Olympics on Friday, avoiding a potentially awkward encounter with the ceremonial leader of North Korea attending the same event.

The reception in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang came hours before North and South Korean athletes marched together at the opening ceremony, the culmination of months of work by Seoul, which seeks to use the Olympics to ease tension spurred by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Ahead of the reception, hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae In, South Korean media said Pence was expected to be seated opposite Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, at the 12-seat head table.

But South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Pence had a meeting scheduled with U.S. athletes and had only planned to stay briefly to greet other officials.

Pence shook hands with other leaders, including close ally Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but not Kim Yong Nam, according to a Blue House pool official.

Earlier on Friday, Pence said Moon gave his backing to additional measures the United States is planning to try to curb North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, speaking after paying tribute at a South Korean memorial.

At the opening ceremony, Kim Yong Nam and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, waved to North and South Korean athletes who marched under a unified peninsula flag for the first time in a decade.Speech

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