Heading home, Pence asserts unity on pressuring North Korea

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence left South Korea Saturday saying the U.S. and its allies are more committed than ever to dismantle North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs.

"The policy of the U.S.is the denuclearization of North Korea", the official said of Pence's approach to the Kim regime".

The two neighboring rival countries displayed an act of solidarity by having some participants from each country honored together during the opening ceremony, and combining the respective women's hockey teams into a singular, unified one.

Fielding the joint hockey team was one of the key agreements reached after several rounds of talks on how to cooperate during the Olympics, which run through February 25.

"We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region". She actually lit the cauldron as the home crowd roared.

South Korean player Ko Hyein said: "We had a tight game at first in the first period, but our mental toughness wasn't really good so we lost our posture after suffering the first goal". And Bach lauded the joint march of the two Koreas as a "powerful message".

After years of frustration, billions of dollars and a nagging national debate about their worth, the opening ceremonies took place before a world watching the moment not only for its athletic significance and global spectacle, but for clues about what the peninsula's political future could hold.

The women arrived in South Korea in charter buses on Wednesday. Kim Tae-hyun marvelled at the North's cheerleading squad, who performed synchronised movements in red uniforms throughout the sold-out match.

And it has warned Seoul against falling for Pyongyang's Olympic charm offensive.

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"We have to be unified (with North Korea)". Not the crowd, not the players, and not their Swiss opponents.

There's worry, too, that the proposed summit in Pyongyang may come with preconditions - a North Korean specialty. At Friday's opening ceremony, for example, Moon shook hands with Jong, as Pence, sitting merely feet away, looked stone faced, never acknowledging the North Korean delegation. The North Koreans, dressed in identical garb, cheered in careful coordination.

The North has sent almost 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures to mark the games. More than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries will compete here, making it the biggest Winter Olympics to date.

At the 2003 University Games in Taegu, accusations that local right-wing groups had "ransacked" bedrooms and stolen underwear at the North Korean delegation's hotel prompted the cheerleaders to down pom-poms in protest.

Pence spent the days leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics warning that the North was trying to "hijack the message and imagery" of the event with its "propaganda".

But North Korea has a habit of not letting itself be ignored when it comes to its southern rival.

Still, the Koreans were playing the world's sixth-ranked team. A few years later, the discovery of the huge progress Pyongyang had been surreptitiously making on its nuclear programs plunged the Korean Peninsula into crisis. It has only deepened over the years as the North closes in on the ability to field an arsenal of nukes that can hit USA cities.

Pence, meanwhile, had only one event on his schedule on Saturday: he appeared back at Pyeongchang to view the short-track speedskating event, along with second lady Karen Pence and the US delegation. "So the question is, when are they going to hear that?"