North Korean leader's sister to attend Pyeongchang Olympics

File Unlike their competitors North Korean and Iranian athletes will not receive free smartphones at the Winter Olympics

File Unlike their competitors North Korean and Iranian athletes will not receive free smartphones at the Winter Olympics

Though Pence didn't comment directly on the North's latest request for fuel assistance, he appeared to rule out the possibility of sanction relief, announcing the United States would soon seek to impose the "toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever".

The star of Korean delegation attending Winter Olympics that inaugurate this Friday is Kim Yo-jong, sister and right arm of Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea.

Based on combination of factors, including satellite imagery analysis and insights from diplomatic sources, analysts say it's possible North Korea will attempt to show the world that it is in the process of mass-producing the technology it showed off previous year, like the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

"With any other North Korean official, even the so-called No. 2 Choe Ryong Hae, you are getting a person who's just parroting orders given by Kim Jong Un", Hong said.

But the Winter Olympic Games organizer is in limbo whether giving the device that costs at least $1,000 to North Koreans would violate global sanctions created to punish their government's nuclear ambitions. The easing of sanctions is crucial for North Korea because it's eager to develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the USA mainland.

She remains blacklisted by the USA over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea. At the time, Kim held the role of vice-director of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation department.

The joint hockey team deal has triggered a backlash in South Korea, with a survey showing about 70 per cent of respondents opposing the idea because it would deprive South Korean players of playing time.

North Korean and Iranian athletes at the Winter Olympics will not receive high-end smartphones being handed out to their fellow competitors because of United Nations sanctions, organisers said on Wednesday. Seoul has temporarily lifted its ban on North Korean ships as part of the Olympic truce, which it hopes will ease nuclear tensions and pave the way for improved inter-Korean relations.

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On Thursday, Moon will meet the presidents of Germany, Poland and Switzerland, China's Politburo Standing Committee member Han Zheng, and with US Vice President Mike Pence.

"North Korea is notorious for waging peace offensives after tensions", said Duyeon Kim, a fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum.

While the White House denies a shift in policy, it has offered mixed messages on North Korea. At the State of the Union, President Donald Trump addressed the Warmbier family and said, "You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all". Warmbier's son, Otto, was detained in North Korea and returned home a year later in such bad condition that he died two days after arriving back in the U.S. He was only 22.

In Japan, the vice president met with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and got a close-up look at the PAC-3 Patriot battery designed as a last line of defense against North Korean ballistic missiles.

US officials, including Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have not ruled out the possibility that the vice president might meet a North Korean official at the sporting event.

While the South Korean government did not comment on the issue, saying it would be up to the USA and North Korea, neither the State Department nor Pence have clearly ruled out that possibility.

North and South Korea have, at least temporarily, put aside their enmity to allow Pyongyang to send athletes to the Games, an opening that some see as an opportunity to push for a negotiated settlement.

Asked to evaluate the likelihood of the scenarios, Kim believes it is extremely unlikely that the North will voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons.

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