Pyongyang to send ceremonial Head of State to South Korea as thaw in relations between neighbours continues

Pyongyang: North Korea is to send its highest ranking official to the South amid an easing of tensions during the Winter Olympics, a Ministry statement said.

Kim Yong-nam, the ceremonial head of state, will lead a 22-member delegation to the South beginning on 9 February, said the South's Unification Ministry. He has been the head of parliament in the North for years and will be the highest-level official to visit South Korea in four years.

The two Koreas' athletes will march under one flag at the opening ceremony. The North's participation in the Games was being widely seen as a diplomatic manoeuvre by Pyongyang, which faces growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes the BBC reported.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The united Korean women's ice hockey team played its first match on Sunday, but lost the friendly against Sweden 1-3. Sunday's outing was the first and only practice match for the newly minted Korean squad.

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. Kim Yong-nam will lead a delegation of three other officials and 18 support staff, the Unification Ministry said. It, however, did not say whether he would attend Friday's opening ceremony alongside US vice-president Mike Pence in Pyeongchang.

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, Pyongyang 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, the BBC said.

Updated Date: Feb 05, 2018 09:59 AM

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