Monday, 21 January, 2019

U.S. to impose 'toughest ever' sanctions on North Korea, Pence warns

Melinda Barton | 08 February, 2018, 15:20

The North's high-level delegation for the Olympics is being led by its ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam, the highest-level official ever to visit the South, and also includes Kim Jong-Un's sister Kim Yo Jong - an increasingly powerful and influential figure.

Pyongyang's decision to hold a military display so close to the start of the Games is viewed by many as a poke in the eye to the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which has gone to extra lengths to present these Olympics as a symbol of peaceful cooperation.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is pouring cold water on the warming ties between North and South Korea just as the two still-warring countries are joining up to compete together in the Winter Olympics.

"Explicitly speaking, we have no intention to meet with the USA side during the stay in South Korea".

But Pyongyang official Cho insisted: "The reason that our delegation is in the South is to participate in the Winter Olympics and celebrate its successful hosting".

Kim is a powerful member of North Korea's ruling family, serving as vice director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea and sitting on the Politburo. Thursday's military parade is the first of its kind since Pyongyang declared early this year that it had completed nuclear weapons program.

In South Korea, Pence will meet Friday morning with North Korean defectors as he pays respects at the Cheonan Memorial in Seoul, which honors the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North.

Worldwide attention was focused on whether North Korea would demonstrate its nuclear capacity at the parade in a show of force to Washington, following the conciliatory gesture it made toward Seoul at the start of the year.

Pence toured joint US and Japanese operations centers at the USA base that monitor and react to crises on the peninsula and the region at large. The South hosts 28,500 US troops, a legacy of the war.

At the welcome ceremony Thursday, band members dressed in white suits and red coats played traditional music, and North Koreans, wearing red, white and blue uniforms, waved at the crowd. South Korean government sources say Pyongyang held its military parade at 10 a.m.

South Korea said it is willing to accept Kim's attendance, and will make proper accommodations for the 30-something-year-old's visit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Kim Jong-Il fathered both Kim Jong-Un and Kim Yo-Jong with his third partner, former dancer Ko Yong-Hui. The South Korean military had also detected mobile launchers and missiles.

A military parade began in the capital of the DPRK, Kyodo's Japanese agency reported.

But his comments did not rule out a meeting - and nor has Pence.

Leading the USA delegation to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, Pence will bring to the games Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, the US student who died in 2017 shortly after he was released from North Korean detention.

The nuclear-armed North is on an Olympics-linked publicity drive - sending a troupe of performers, hundreds of female cheerleaders, and the sister of leader Kim Jong Un to the South. About a dozen South Korean citizens were seen outside the art center, waving a flag showing the Korean peninsula, and shouting, "We are one", to cheer on the troupe members.

Pyongyang has yet to mention any change in their plans to send him, Seoul said. "And that is that North Korea must once and for all abandon its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile ambitions".

A man sanitizes his hands at the entrance to the media cafeteria in Gangneung, South Korea, on Wednesday.