North Korea to send high-level delegation to Winter Olympics closing ceremony: Yonhap

An official from South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said that President Moon Jae In will likely hold a meeting with North Korea's delegation.
An official from South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said that President Moon Jae In will likely hold a meeting with North Korea's delegation. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) -North Korea said on Thursday (Feb 22) it will send a high-level delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics' closing ceremony on Sunday (Feb 25), reported Yonhap news agency.

General Kim Yong Chol, head of the ruling party's United Front Department and former chief of North Korea's reconnaissance bureau, will lead the eight-member delegation for a three-day trip that will start on Sunday, according to Seoul's unification ministry.

Ivanka Trump will lead the US delegation to the closing ceremony, according to the White House.

The 36-year-old businesswoman and model-turned-policy-advisor will be joined by press secretary Sarah Sanders and is going in part because "she is something of a winter sports enthusiast," an official said.

A senior administration official ruled out any possible meeting between Ivanka and officials from North Korea.

The two nuclear powers are locked in a standoff over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which could soon threaten the continental United States.

Visitors to Pyeongchang included Vice President Mike Pence as well as North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, the telegenic sister of leader Kim Jong Un.

The Games' opening ceremony saw Pence and the North Korean representatives seated in the same box, but they did not interact.

They had planned to meet secretly while in South Korea, but US officials said Pyongyang scrapped the plan after Pence denounced North Korea's "murderous regime".

Pyongyang has used the Games to try to soften its image and push for talks with Seoul that could cut the odds of a US military strike.

An official from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said on Thursday (Feb 22) President Moon Jae In will likely hold a meeting with North Korea's delegation.

"We believe President Moon will naturally meet the (North Korean) delegation at the closing ceremony," the Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters.

The official, while speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that the president may also meet the North Koreans for formal talks later in the week.