The Latest: UN chief urges denuclearization to North Korea
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The Latest on the arrival of a high-level North Korean delegation to South Korea for the Olympics (all times local):
The U.N. says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had a brief exchange with North Korea’s nominal head of state and “reiterated his expectation and hope that all parties will use dialogue to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at U.N. headquarters that Guterres sat near 90-year-old Kim Yong Nam at a dinner Friday night, and they were also near each other during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
He said the secretary-general was also in “the same general area” as a number of other officials from Pyongyang including North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, “but they were never in any personal contact with each other.”
A White House official says U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were seated just feet apart during Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony, but they did not interact.
Pence was seated between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s 90-year-old nominal head of state, seated a row behind.
Pence is leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies, where he has worked to pour cold water on warming ties between the two Koreas.
Kim Yo Jong shook hands with Moon at the beginning of the ceremony.
South Korea says North Korea has withdrawn a request that the South provide fuel to a North Korean ferry that transported more than a 100 artists for performances marking the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Friday that the Mangyongbong-92 will return to the North on Saturday.
The North Korean artists performed Thursday in Gangneung, a coastal city that will host the skating, hockey and curling events during the games, and are to perform again in Seoul.
South Korea says the artists will return to the North on Tuesday by a land route.
Providing fuel to the ferry would have been a difficult decision for Seoul because of concerns that North Korea is trying to use the Olympics to poke holes in international sanctions against the country over its nuclear and missile programs.
South Korea treated the ferry as an exception to maritime sanctions it imposed on the North so it could transport the artists to the South.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean officials have attended a pre-Olympic opening ceremony reception hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but did not meet face-to-face.
Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah says Pence visited with guests at several tables at Friday’s reception, “but did not come across the North Korean delegation.”
Pence rode to the reception with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two held a private conversation while waiting more than 10 minutes for a photo opportunity with Moon.
Earlier, Moon warmly greeted North Korea’s 90-year-old nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, as they attended the VIP reception. The North Koreans were in the room at the same time as Pence, an official said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned South Korean President Moon Jae-in not to fall for North Korea’s “smile diplomacy” during the Olympics, saying the North remains committed to developing nuclear weapons and missiles even while pursuing talks with the South.
Moon’s office said he told Abe that the talks between the Koreas would not disrupt international efforts to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program. Moon and Abe met Friday hours before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Moon said improved relations between the Koreas may be a step toward resolving the nuclear standoff.
Moon sees the Olympics as an opportunity to restore meaningful communication with North Korea after an extended diplomatic stalemate over its nuclear ambitions. Reviving inter-Korean talks is key to the polices of Moon, who says South Korea should be in the driver’s seat in international efforts to deal with the North’s nuclear threat.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has smiled and shaken hands with North Korea’s 90-year-old nominal head of state as they attended a VIP reception before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Kim Yong Nam on Friday took a picture with Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook before entering the reception room.
Moon has invited Kim and other senior North Korean officials to a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace on Saturday. The North Korean delegation that arrived in the South on leader Kim Jong Un’s private jet also includes his sister Kim Yo Jong.
A high-level North Korean delegation including leader Kim Jong Un’s sister has arrived at a train station in Pyeongchang hours ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
Kim Yo Jong earlier on Friday became the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North Korean delegation also included the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, who was expected to attend a VIP reception before opening ceremony.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is also in Pyeongchang for the opening ceremony.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has invited Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam to a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace on Saturday in what would be the most significant diplomatic event between the rivals in years.
The sister of the North Korean leader has arrived in South Korea, dressed in a black coat and absorbing a barrage of camera flashes.
Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
She smiled brightly as she was greeted by South Korean officials led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.
She was joined by other members of North Korea’s delegation, including Kim Yong Nam, the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state, Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.
Analysts say the North’s decision Kim Yo Jong to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.