North Korea willing to hold talks with US

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (front left) has met with Kim Yong-chol (back right), North Korea's chief delegate to the Winter Olympics Credit: AP

North Korea is willing to hold talks with the US, Pyongyang's delegate to the Winter Olympics has said.

The announcement came after General Kim Yong-chol met South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Gen Kim said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wanted to improve ties with Washington and had "ample intentions of holding talks" with its rival, according Mr Moon's office.

He made the remarks during a meeting with Mr Moon, who is eager to engage the North after one of the most hostile periods in recent years on the Korean Peninsula.

The possibility of diplomacy will be welcomed by many, yet critics argue that the North may be suggesting the talks in a bid to get economic relief, after a series of increasingly tough international sanctions slapped on Pyongyang for its illicit weapons programmes or more time to develop those weapons.

Gen Kim and Mr Moon both watched the closing ceremony of the "Peace Games" and shared a brief handshake in a VIP box in which US President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, and the top US military commander on the peninsula, General Vincent Brooks, also sat.

Fireworks at the closing ceremony. Credit: AP

The ceremony saw a fireworks display, a high-tech lightshow where illuminated giant pandas and dancers skated around the Olympic Stadium, as well as a performance from popular South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, before the flag was passed over to the mayor Beijing ahead of the 2022 Games.

Beijing will be the first city to host both the summer and winter Games.

Gen Kim, a former anti-Seoul military intelligence chief is deeply unpopular in the South where it is believed he masterminded two attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

Despite divisions between the two Koreas, the countries agreed to have their athletes march together at both the opening and closing ceremonies under a banner of unification, and they also fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team.

Dancers take to the stage as the Games are handed over the Beijing ready for 2022. Credit: AP

A day after the PyeongChang opening ceremony, Mr Moon was invited to Pyongyang for a summit with Kim Jong-un, by his sister Kim Yo-jong after she attended the opening ceremony in an historic first - no member of the ruling Kim family had ever travelled to the South before.

Mr Moon has yet to accept the North's invitation for a summit, but he has advocated engagement with Pyongyang his entire political career and likely wants to go.

He has also said that Washington and Pyongyang should quickly meet to "fundamentally solve" the stand-off between the two.