North Korea leader impressed with South’s delegation welcome

A fan wears cap with small flags as he watches during the third period of the preliminary round of the women's hockey game between Sweden and the combined Koreas at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday it is important to continue a reconciliatory mood between the Koreas and expressed satisfaction with the North Korean delegation’s visit to the South, in his first remarks since the high-level guests led by his sister returned to the North.

The North’s state-owned Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim was impressed with Seoul’s welcome and treatment of the high-level delegation. He expressed gratitude to the South for ”making their possible and sincere efforts” for their guests from the North.

Kim emphasized the importance of continuing dialogue between two Koreas, according to the North’s official news agency.

North Korea sent its nominal head of state and Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, who extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang for a summit in the near future.

Moon didn’t immediately accept the North Korean offer.

He said the Koreas should create an environment so that a meeting of the two leaders could take place. He also called for a quick resumption of dialogue between North Korea and the United States, apparently aware that being friendly with the North could alienate an American ally critical to the defense of the South.

The North delegation returned home Sunday night. During a three-day visit, the delegation members sat among world dignitaries including the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony of Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, had lunch with Moon at his presidential palace and joined Moon in cheering for the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team as it debuted in the women’s ice hockey tournament.

The North Koreans were the subject of intense media scrutiny during their busy schedule visiting Seoul and the Olympic towns of Pyeongchang and Gangneung.

South Koreans were especially fascinated by Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who seemed relaxed and smiled most of the time.

The 30 year-old, an increasingly prominent figure in her older brother’s government, was the North’s first ruling family to visit the South since the end of the Korean War.

South Korean media closely documented every move and gesture of the North Korean leader’s younger sister, commenting on everything from the purse she carried to her writing style in a message she left in the presidential palace guest book.

An hour before the North Korean news agency report, Pence declared that the U.S. is open for talks without preconditions with nuclear North Korea, in a subtle shift in White House policy.

The vice president’s remarks provided a little more leverage for South Korea in its path-finding outreach to the North and could reduce potential strains in the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

But diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang won’t start unless Kim Jong Un wants it to.

While the North Korean dictator, who has yet to meet a foreign leader, has invited the South Korean president for a rare summit, Kim has given no sign of being ready to talk to the U.S.

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