Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday there’s “no daylight” among the U.S., South Korea and Japan on the need to keep the pressure on North Korea’s regime, even as Pyongyang extended an invitation to South Korea’s president for a rare visit.
On a flight back to the U.S. from the winter Olympics in South Korea, Mr. Pence told reporters that his meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed that the allies still “stand together” against North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“I leave here very confident that we are going to continue to do the things we’ve known have to be done to continue to pressure North Korea to abandon their nuclear ambitions,” Mr. Pence said on Air Force Two.
South Korea said Saturday North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited Mr. Moon for a summit in the North. Mr. Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, verbally delivered the offer at a luncheon with Mr. Moon at Seoul’s presidential palace, the Blue House.
North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam also attended the luncheon with Mr. Moon. The North Koreans left written messages in the Blue House’s guest book.
“Working in unity on the way to unification,” Kim Yong-nam wrote. “Putting in real effort is our people’s wish.”
“The distance Between Pyongyang and Seoul has become closer in our hearts,” Kim Yo-jong wrote. “And I wish for a future of unification and prosperity.”
Mr. Moon hasn’t decided on whether or when to visit the North. But the lunch Saturday was the most significant diplomatic encounter between the rivals in years.
On Friday night, Kim Yo-jong and other North Korean delegates attended the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, watching a “unified” Korean team march into the stadium.
A senior Trump administration official said Mr. Pence did not discuss the North Koreans’ invitation with Mr. Moon on Saturday when they watched a speed skating event.
The official also said Mr. Pence was not trying to avoid the North Koreans at the Olympics’ opening ceremonies, where they were seated in the same box, but he was trying to ignore them. The aide said the North Koreans were not the reason that Mr. Pence attended the Opening Ceremony.
The vice president — whose father Edward served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Bronze Star — said he was especially touched by signs in South Korea thanking him for his father’s service.
“I got a little emotional when I saw it,” Mr. Pence told reporters. “It was a defining time in his life and I take great pride in seeing the extraordinary prosperity of freedom in South Korea and to know that the people of South Korea know that the American soldier won that for them. And that’s why there is no daylight and there will be no daylight because the core of the bond between South Korea and the United States was forged in world.”
• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.