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North Korea holds massive military parade on eve of Olympics

09 February 2018

With tensions higher than usual towards the end of previous year amid concerns over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's nuclear intentions, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics has provided a platform to thaw frosty relations.

Kim Yo Jong's trip, a rare visit to the South by a member of the North's ruling family, is a measure of her political clout, according to analysts.

It's highly unlikely that the luncheon will lead to an immediate breakthrough in worldwide tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but just holding such a meeting seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.

The apparent thaw has not been reflected in Washington.

However, he appeared to take a tougher line in Tokyo, saying that North Korea must not be allowed to "hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games".

She is leading his country's delegates to the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

North Korea's foreign ministry official Cho Yong-Sam said: "We have no intention whatsoever to meet United States authorities during our visit to the South".

Pope Francis on Wednesday praised as a gesture for a "better world" plans for a joint parade Friday by delegations from South and North Korea to open the Winter Olympics.

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The US has given mixed signals about its willingness to talk.

"Not everyone gets to see it", said Kim Mi-sook, who came to the concert with her husband.

On Wednesday, Pence announced the US would again ramp up economic sanctions aimed at starving the regime of resources. North Koreans "alone are responsible for these tensions, they alone must take responsibility for these tensions, and they alone can solve these tensions", Tillerson told North Korea's United Nations ambassador Ja Song Nam.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, said Kim Yo Jong, as Kim Jong Un's relative and apparently one of the few people who has earned his absolute trust, carries more weight as a dialogue partner for the South than any other official the North could send.

A source from within the Olympic movement told Reuters a delay in delivering the phones had been due to "a misunderstanding".

On Wednesday, the North announced that Kim Yo Jong, the sister of dictator Kim Jong-un, would attend the games, joining the country's nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam.

North Korea has sent hundreds of people to the Olympics in the South, including officials, athletes, artists, journalists and a 230-member cheering group.

Before departing for Asia, Pence fueled speculation of a potential meeting by telling reporters that he had not ruled out meeting with the North Koreans on the sidelines in Pyeongchang.

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Vice President Mike Pence is reassuring Japan of its support against the North Korean nuclear threat as he meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

However, since arriving in the region, Pence has taken a more strident tone, saying American "resolve" had not wavered in bringing worldwide pressure against Pyongyang.

North Korea informed the South on Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un's sister, an increasingly prominent figure in the country's leadership, will be part of a high-level government delegation traveling for the Olympics.

But the trip could become a source of contention between Seoul and Washington, as she was blacklisted previous year by the U.S. Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship, while Choe faces a travel ban under U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Until the low-key parade in the capital, Pyongyang, the only marching North Koreans to be seen were a female band, resplendent in red and gold, welcoming athletes to the Olympic village in neighbouring South Korea.

That could put them in the same room at a leaders' reception beforehand. "And we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile program once and for all".

She was likely to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-In and give him a personal letter from her brother, expressing his hopes for a successful hosting of the Olympics and a desire to improve inter-Korean ties, he added. He will attend the opening ceremony on Friday (Saturday NZ Time).

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North Korea holds massive military parade on eve of Olympics