South Korean President Moon Jae-in had "virtually accepted" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation to Pyongyang, officials said on Saturday, making way for a first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade. North Korea has tested a record number of missiles past year and has shown no interest in abandoning the country's nuclear program.
It was a historic moment, and it happened even before the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics had officially begun.
Analysts say that the missiles, which were successfully flight tested three times previous year, could potentially reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
The meeting came amid brisk diplomacy among the members of six-party denuclearisation talks - the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas.
Washington has pursued a strategy of exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang through tough sanctions and harsh rhetoric, demanding it give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The officials said it was fair to say both Pence and the North Koreans rebuffed South Korean President Moon Jae-in's efforts to facilitate a meeting between North Korea and the US.
A visit by Moon to the North would enable the first summit between leaders from the two Koreas since 2007.
But the agreement made little headway after the North carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests, and after conservative presidents took office in the South, adopting a harder line on Pyongyang.
Olimpiadi invernali: Arianna è il nostro orgoglio
Un plaid, un berretto, una mantella, un cuscinetto termico e un "hot pack set" per scaldare guanti e piedi. E' iniziata così la cerimonia inaugurale dei Giochi invernali di PyeongChang .
President Trump has traded insults with North Korea's leader and has led efforts to slap sanctions on the country for its refusal to yield to global pressure to halt its nuclear weapons program.
Officials traveling with Pence to the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in South Korea were responding to reports that Pence had gone around a main table and greeted everyone except Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state.
As for sharing Moon's box with the North Koreans, the officials said they knew in advance who was going to be in Moon's box to watch the opening ceremony.
Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The United States fought with South Korea and maintains tens of thousands of troops and an "ironclad" agreement to protect its ally.
Tensions between the U.S and North Korea intensified during the past year, raising worries of armed conflict on the peninsula.
Mr Moon hoped to use the Olympics to ease tensions and North Korea agreed to send high-profile officials as well as athletes.
Moon met Kim Yo Jong and the North's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam for talks and lunch at the Blue House on Saturday.
Pence also reportedly avoided North Korea's delegation at a VIP reception prior to the ceremony.
Asked about criticism that Pence stood and cheered only for Team USA and stayed seated when the North and South Koreans marched in under a unified flag, the official was unapologetic.