N KOREA holds military parade ahead of Winter Olympics
09 February, 2018, 03:41 | Author: Dustin Murphy
She will be part of a high-level 22-member delegation that experts say is part of a campaign to fix relations with South Korea and begin talks with the U.S.to ease sanctions on the isolated communist regime.
Analysts say the North is looking to portray itself as a normal country with its participation in the games and could be trying to weaken the sanctions regime against it or drive a wedge between the South and its protecting ally the US.
North Korea is under multiple sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which have seen it develop rockets capable of reaching the USA mainland.
Shortly before Pence made his announcement in Tokyo, South Korea's Unification Ministry announced that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea, planned to send his sister, Kim Yo-jong, as part of the North's high-level delegation to the Olympic Games.
"President Moon will receive the North Korean delegation and have lunch with them on February 10", Kim Eui-kyeom told journalists, without disclosing the venue for the meal.
Both Kim Yong-Nam, the North's ceremonial head of state, who is leading its delegation, and Mr Pence are due to attend the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang tomorrow, which could put them in the same room at a leaders' reception beforehand.
7 of 9 North Korea held the parade a day before South Korea hosts the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
But privately, officials said Pence expressed concern to Moon about his more conciliatory tone toward North Korea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's special envoy Han Zheng (L), who is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 8, 2018.
North Korea will have 22 athletes competing at the Pyeongchang Games, but the total number of North Koreans crossing the border is more than 500.
Choe was sanctioned in June a year ago as a senior director of the propaganda and agitation department of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.
Tours from the South to the resort were closed after a South Korean tourist was shot by a North Korean guard in 2008.
According to Kim, Pence's decision to invite Warmbier to the Games was meant to remind the worldwide community of the North's provocative actions and rights abuses, despite what he said was a bid by Pyongyang to "improve their image in Pyeongchang".
"We have never begged for dialogue with the USA and will never do so", he said.
North Korea already is facing unprecedented sanctions after three U.N. Security Council restrictions in the past year that have slashed the pariah nation's export revenue and capped fuel imports.
China and South Korea are close neighbors geographically and natural partners. A potential escalation of sanctions could be the US blacklisting Chinese banks accused of providing North Korea access to the global financial system and facilitating sanctions evasion. North Korea held a massive military parade highlighted by intercontinental ballistic missiles.
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