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North Korea To Send Ceremonial Head Kim Yong-Nam South
It is unclear whether Kim Yong-nam, who heads the parliament in Pyongyang, will attend the opening ceremony along with US Vice President Mike Pence
February 5th, 2018 | 09:16 AM | 1764 views
North Korea is to send its highest ranking official for years to the South amid an easing of tensions during the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, will lead a 22-member delegation to the South beginning on Friday, said the South's Unification Ministry.
The two Koreas' athletes will march under one flag at the opening ceremony.
The North's participation in the Games is widely seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre by Pyongyang.
It faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes.
The united Korean women's ice hockey team played its first match on Sunday, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3.
They will get a chance to even the score when they face Sweden again during the Games.
Sunday's outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.
Kim Yong-nam is the head of the parliament in the North and will be the highest-level official to visit South Korea in four years.
An unnamed official from the South's presidential Blue House told the BBC that they believe this reflected a willingness on the part of North Korea to improve inter-Korean relations, and demonstrated the North's sincerity.
Mr Kim will lead a delegation of three other officials and 18 support staff, the Unification Ministry said.
It did not say whether he would attend Friday's opening ceremony of the Games in Pyeongchang, a county in the mountainous east of South Korea.
If so, it would put him in the company of US Vice President Mike Pence at a point of high tension with Washington over the North's nuclear ambitions.
In another development on Sunday, the Washington Post reported that Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier was jailed by North Korea and died days after returning to the US, would attend the opening ceremony as a guest of Mr Pence.
Mr Warmbier and his wife, Cindy, were guests of US President Donald Trump at last week's State of the Union address.
The North has conducted a series of missile tests designed to demonstrate its nuclear capability.
North Korea's participation in the Olympics, which run from 9 to 25 February, was a sudden turn towards reconciliation.
It came after the hereditary leader Kim Jong-un extended an olive branch to the South in a New Year message, saying he was open to dialogue and could send a team to the Games.
As well as the ice hockey players, North Korean athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating events. It is also sending hundreds of delegates, cheerleaders and performers.
However, there have already been some bumps in the road to reconciliation.
Earlier this week it emerged that the North had scheduled a large-scale military parade for 8 February, the day before the Winter Olympics commences.
Amid negative headlines, North Korea said no-one had the right to take issue with its plans and promptly cancelled a cultural event it was to hold jointly with the South.
Meanwhile, although Seoul and Washington have agreed to delay the annual big joint military exercises which always enrage the North, they will still go ahead at the end of the Paralympics.
courtesy of BBC NEWS
by BBC NEWS
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