North Korean President Kim Jong-nam will go to Pyongyang this week for the Winter Olympics.
Kim Jong-nam, 90, is the highest-ranking official to ever visit South Korea.
North Korea has confirmed its presence at the opening ceremony, scheduled for February 9th.
Both Koreas will parade under one flag at the opening ceremony.
Although Kim Jong-nam’s presence at the Winter Olympics signals a thaw in relations between Korea, experts say it is unlikely to affect North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Kim Jong-nam will be in South Korea for a three-day visit and will lead a 22-member delegation.
He has seen the rule of all three North Korean leaders in his career.
Kim Jong-nam is the ceremonial head of state who receives diplomas from foreign diplomats in Pyongyang. As such, he is usually responsible for sending condolences or congratulatory messages to foreign leaders.
He has been chairman of North Korea’s rubber-stamped parliament, the Supreme National Assembly, since 1998.
Unlike North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong-nam has traveled abroad on official visits. In August 2017, he traveled to Iran to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani for his second term.
Kim Jong Nam also attended the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
He is said to be a loyal follower of the top leadership.
“As it is known that Kim acts and speaks under the leadership of the country, he does not make mistakes. That is why he could maintain his position at a high level in a country where political purges are common. “ The South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a North Korean deserter as saying.
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South Korea said it would seek high-level talks with the North Korean delegation during the visit, Yonhap said.
Kim Jong-nam’s presence at the opening ceremony will also put him in the company of Vice President Mike Pence, at a time of high tensions with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
On February 4 Washington Post announced that Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto Warmbier was imprisoned by North Korea and died days after his return to the United States, will attend the opening ceremony as a guest of Vice President Mike Pence.
Fred Warmbier and his wife Cindy were guests of President Donald Trump at last week’s address on the state of the Union.
On February 5, North Korea offered to send an art group to the Games by ferry, which would require an exemption from bilateral sanctions.
According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, Pyongyang suggested that his delegation use Mangyongbong 92, a ferry that normally operates between North Korea and Russia, to transport and house the group.
Since 2010, all North Korean ships have been banned from entering South Korean ports.
South Korean ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a news conference: “We seek to implement an exemption … in support of a successful hosting of the Olympic Games.”
On February 4, the united Korean women’s ice hockey team played its first match, but lost the friendly match against Sweden 1-3.
The trip was the first and only training match for the newly recruited Korean team.
In addition to ice hockey players, North Korean athletes will compete in skiing and figure skating. It also sends hundreds of delegates, cheerleaders and performers.
North Korea is currently facing growing international pressure and sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs after conducting a series of missile tests designed to demonstrate its nuclear capability.
His participation in the Olympic Games, which take place from February 9th to 25th, was an unexpected warming of ties.
Meanwhile, although South Korea and the United States have agreed to postpone the annual major joint military exercises, which always infuriate North Korea, they will still continue at the end of the Paralympic Games.