Ivanka Trump, North Korean General, To Attend Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

The daughter of the President of the United States, Ivanka will be attending the Winter Olympics closing ceremony in the south this weekend with a top North Korean general also in attendance.

Recall that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatched his sister Kim Yo Jong to the opening ceremony — which US Vice President Mike Pence also attended — and during her visit she extended an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to come to a summit in Pyongyang.

The family connections will be reversed at Sunday’s closing ceremony. The White House said Donald Trump had asked his eldest daughter — who is also one of his top advisers — to travel to Pyeongchang to lead up a “high level delegation”.

The 36-year-old businesswoman and former model 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.

The North will send an eight-member delegation Sunday headed by Kim Yong Chol, a top general who oversees inter-Korean relations for the ruling Workers’ Party, Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement.

Kim Yong Chol’s presence is a demonstration of how Pyongyang is testing the limits of the multiple different sanctions imposed on it over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The general is blacklisted under Seoul’s unilateral sanctions against the North — meaning he is subject to an assets freeze — although he is not named in the UN Security Council’s measures.

He is believed to have once led the North’s spying agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and to have ordered a deadly torpedo attack on the South’s corvette Cheonan in 2010 that left 46 sailors dead.

Seoul blamed the North for the attack but Pyongyang denied involvement.

South Korea’s defence ministry has also linked him to the shelling of its Yeonpyeong island the same year, which killed four people.

Moon dinner
The Games have seen a flurry of cross-border visits and diplomacy on the habitually tense peninsula, where strains were racked up last year as the North conducted a battery of weapons tests and its leader Kim Jong Un exchanged personal insults and threats of war with Trump.

Moon — who did not immediately accept the invitation to go to the North — has been trying to use what Seoul promotes as a “peace Olympics” to defuse tensions and open a door for dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington.

But at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, Kim Yo Jong sat just a few seats away from US Vice President Mike Pence, who did not exchange a word with her at any point.

Pence had earlier denounced the North’s “murderous regime”, and according to US officials the North Koreans later cancelled a meeting that had been scheduled for the day after the Games’ opening.

Ivanka Trump is scheduled to have dinner with Moon on Friday, and Yonhap news agency cited the presidential Blue House as saying he was also likely to meet Pyongyang’s delegation during its three-day trip.

But a senior administration official ruled out any possible meeting between Ivanka and officials from North Korea, and a Seoul government source also said such an encounter was unlikely.

Pyongyang has used the Games to try to soften its image in the international community and push for talks with Seoul — which would lessen the possibility of a US military strike, touted as an option by Trump administration officials.

But North-South discussions would have a limited impact on wider tensions, said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert and a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul.

“The major problem is between North Korea and the United States,” he told AFP. “Therefore, no amount of talks between North and the South… is going to change anything significantly.”

Washington has sought to project resolve in the face of a growing threat from the North — which has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland and last year carried out its most powerful nuclear blast to date.

The US insists it will persist with its campaign of “maximum pressure and engagement”, and has repeatedly sought to underscore the importance of a troubled alliance with Seoul.

 

United States, South Korea Korea To Go Ahead With Olympic-Delayed Drills

The United States and South Korea will go ahead with joint military drills after the Paralympics, both of them confirmed Tuesday, despite the exercises always infuriating Pyongyang and the Olympics having driven a rapprochement on the peninsula.

Washington previously agreed to a request from Seoul to delay the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises — which usually begin in late February or early March — until after the Pyeongchang Games in the South, to try to avoid stoking tensions.

The Olympics have since seen a charm offensive by Pyongyang, which dispatched athletes, cheerleaders and its leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong to attend the Games.

She passed on Kim Jong Un’s invitation to the South’s President Moon Jae-in to come to a summit in Pyongyang — which he did not immediately accept, saying the right conditions were needed first.

Analysts say the Games-driven bonhomie on the peninsula may not last long once the sporting festivals are over, particularly once Key Resolve, a command post drill, and the Foal Eagle theatre-level field exercise begin.

The start date will be announced by the two allies between the end of the Paralympics on March 18 and the beginning of April, Seoul’s defence minister Song Young-moo was quoted as telling the National Assembly by a ministry spokesman.

A US Forces Korea spokesman confirmed the position to AFP. “The date for the postponed exercises — Key Resolve and Foal Eagle — will be announced after the Paralympics,” he said. “The exercises have been postponed, not scrapped.”

General Vincent K. Brooks, who commands the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, last week told the US House Armed Services Committee that joint drills were “essential” to “deter North Korean aggression”.

Military tensions often run high during the exercises, with the North carrying out its own counter-drills against what it condemns as rehearsals for a war.

Pyongyang says it needs its nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the US.

The North’s KCNA news agency on Monday accused the US of seeking to torpedo the reconciliatory mood by resuming the exercises.

“Trump and his clique are racketeering to nip peace in the bud that started sprouting on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said in a commentary.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has previously said the drills would go ahead after the end of the Paralympics.

AFP

Tears And Cheers As Unified Korean Team Bows Out of Olympics

The joint Korean women’s ice hockey team ended their historic Olympic run on Tuesday with a crushing 6-1 defeat to Sweden but still received an emotional standing ovation from the crowd.

The team was hastily assembled following a landmark deal between South and North Korea only a few weeks before the Pyeongchang Games, and has 12 North Koreans on its roster.

They have found little success on the ice, shipping 28 goals and scoring only twice in five games.

But they are a crowd favourite at the Games in South Korea, hailed as a potent symbol of the “Peace Olympics” in Pyeongchang.

The home support roared when the South Korean Han Soo-jin scored to tie the game in the first period, before the Swedes ran out easy winners.

For many, the unified team’s games have been about much more than the score and when the final buzzer sounded, all sides of the arena rose as one, accompanied by a deafening round of applause.

In return, the players bowed deeply.

The Korean team’s head coach, the Canadian Sarah Murray, broke into tears as she watched her players salute the crowd and hugged North Korean coach Pak Chul ho.

“All the sacrifices our players and team have been making, it was worth it,” Murray told reporters.

“The chemistry and the message that our players were able to send — that sports transcends the barriers… they did a great job.”

South Korean goaltender Shin So-jung added: “It is the first time to be cheered on by such a large crowd and I’m just so thankful.”

‘Message of peace’
The addition of North Korean players initially provoked a backlash in the South, with accusations that Seoul was depriving some of its own players the chance to compete at a home Olympics for political purposes.

But the sight of North and South Korean skaters on the ice together has touched many spectators, with an IOC official even suggesting that the Korean team be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The politicians made the decision… but our players and our staff are the ones that made it work,” said Murray, whose team always attracted a packed stadium and a swarm of media at each game.

“If the North’s staff was different, if the North’s players were different, if our players were different or our staff was any different, I don’t think this would have worked.”

International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel has expressed hopes for a unified Korean team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, referring to them as the bearers of “the message of peace”.

The players have struck up a rapport among themselves, even as they were thrashed time and time again, but suspect they are more likely to be on opposing sides in future.

“I think if we end up playing against each other again, South Korea versus North Korea, there’s definitely some hugs and some smiles,” said the South’s Randi Griffin.

AFP

Kim Jong’s Sister Lands In South Korea Ahead Of Winter Olympics

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister has landed in South Korea ahead of the Olympics.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of Pyongyang’s ruling dynasty to set foot in its rival since the Korean War.

Yo Jong was also part of a high-level diplomatic delegation led by the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam — its highest-level official ever to go to the South — as the Winter Olympics trigger a diplomatic rapprochement between the rivals.

Their white Ilyushin-62 jet, marked in Korean script “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, the North’s official name, and its tailfin emblazoned with a Northern emblem, touched down at Incheon airport near Seoul.

The last member of the Kim family to set foot in Seoul was Yo Jong’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, the North’s founder, after his forces invaded in 1950 and the capital fell.

Three years later the conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided by the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, and the two sides technically in a state of war.

Now the North is subject to multiple rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, while the democratic South has risen to become the world’s 11th-largest economy.

Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, both of them in dark coats with fur collars, were met by the South’s unification minister and other officials, exchanging pleasantries about the cold weather.

The leader’s sister looked relaxed, smiling calmly as she talked with them, before making her way through the terminal, with four bodyguards surrounding her closely, to take a high-speed train to the Winter Olympics host Pyeongchang.

The delegation’s trip is the diplomatic high point of a Games-driven rapprochement between the two Koreas, with dovish South Korean President Moon Jae-in pushing a “peace Olympics” that will open a door for dialogue to alleviate tensions and seek to persuade Pyongyang to give up its atomic ambitions.

Kim Yong Nam was due to attend a leaders’ reception on Friday ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony along with US Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, both of whose countries the North regularly threatens.

And Moon is scheduled to have lunch with the Pyongyang delegation on Saturday.

But all eyes are on Yo Jong — a key member of the Kim dynasty that has ruled the impoverished, isolated nation with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult over three generations.

The family are revered in the North as the “Paektu bloodline”, named after the country’s highest mountain and supposed birthplace of the late leader Kim Jong Il.

Many analysts suggest Yo Jong may be carrying a personal message to Moon from her brother.

 

Winter Olympics 2018: Russians Appeal Against Pyeongchang Exclusion Adjourned

A decision on whether 47 Russian athletes and coaches can take part in the Winter Olympics may not be made until Friday – the day the Games start.

The Russians believe they have been wrongfully excluded from Pyeongchang by the International Olympic Committee.

They include the 28 athletes who had their life bans lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) last week.

A Cas panel started hearing the appeals on Wednesday but they have been adjourned until Thursday.

“The panel’s decisions are expected to be announced either late in the evening of 8 February 2018 or in the morning of 9 February 2018,” Cas said.

The Winter Olympics run from 9 to 25 February in South Korea – although some events start on 8 February, the day before the opening ceremony.

U.S Postpones Ballistic Missile Test Ahead Of 2018 Winter Olympics

The United Sates has postponed the testing of a ballistic missile ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

According to local media reports, the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been rescheduled.

A CBS News broadcaster said the decision was made as there are no indications that North Korea is going to carry out a new missile test during a military parade that will be held a day before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

In January, President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in agreed to halt joint military exercises during the upcoming Winter Olympics in order to make them more safe and successful.

The Olympics in South Korea’s Pyeongchang ia schwduled to begin on Friday and end on Feb. 25.

Since the Ancient Greece era, the Olympic Games are regarded as a symbol of peace with the Olympic truce being introduced for the period of competitions.

 

North Korean Leader Kim Jong’s Sister To Attend Winter Olympics

Seoul’s-Unification-Ministry has revealed Kim Jong Un’s 28-year-old sister is set to make her debut on the world stage when she visits South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday.

Kim Yo Jong would be accompanying Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, along with Choe Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee.

With them also is RI Son Gwon, who led inter-Korean talks last week, according to the ministry.

The inclusion of Kim Yo Jong in the delegation is “meaningful” as she is not only the sister of the country’s leader but a senior official at the ruling Workers’ Party, the ministry said on Wednesday.

But the trip could provide a source of contention between Seoul and Washington, as she was blacklisted last year by the U.S. Treasury Department over human rights abuses and censorship.

Meanwhile, Choe is subject to a travel ban under U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Kim Yo Jong is vice director of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department, which handles ideological messaging through the media, arts and culture.

Choe had previously worked for the same organisation.

“One of the positives of her visit is that she is someone able to deliver a direct message on behalf of Kim Jong Un”, said Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.

“What is problematic is that she’s coming with Choe Hwi.

” This raises worries that North Korea likely intends to use this Olympics as a propaganda tool rather than a possible opening to meaningful dialogue with South Korea”.

 

Serena Williams Exicted Over Nigeria’s Participation In Bobsledding At Winter Olympics

Tennis Star, Serena Williams has expressed her joy for Nigeria’s qualification to participate at the Bobsledding part of the Winter Olympics.

The award winning Williams took to her Twitter handle to praise the team for their efforts in making Nigeria appear for the first time in the special Olympics.

It will be recalled that Nigeria will be represented at the Winter Olympics for the first time ever, after their women’s team qualified for the bobsled event at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.

Driver Seun Adigun and brakemen Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga completed the fifth of their required five qualifying races becoming the first African team, men or women, to qualify in the Bobsled category.

In women’s bobsled, teams are required to complete five races to qualify. The Nigeria team, led by driver Adigun – a former African 100m hurdles champion and 2012 summer Olympian – completed races in Utah, one in Whistler, and their final two races in Calgary in 2017.

First Time Ever: Nigeria Represented At Winter Olympics

Nigeria’s women’s bobsled team, consisting the trio of Akuoma Omeoga, Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere, has qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The three-member team — which was only formed in 2016 — is the first to represent Nigeria at the winter event, to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February next year.

Driver Seun Adigun, brakemen Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omega, qualified for the event over five races held in Utah, Whistler and Calgary.

In 2012, Adigun competed in the women’s 100 metre hurdles at the summer Olympics.

She told ESPN that the qualification is a “huge milestone for sports in Nigeria”.

Adigun hopes that the bobsled team will help create opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria.

“Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed,” she said.

Adigun started a Go Fund Me campaign late last year to raise $US75,000 to fund their Olympic bid, which they achieved in 11 months.

President of the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria, Solomon Ogba, said in a statement he hopes Nigerians can appreciate the effort the team has put in, “the work, the discipline, and the personal sacrifices.”

Mr Ogba he was proud the team was representing their country in “a very technical and high risk sport”.

Another Nigerian competitor, Simidele Adeagbo, is just two races away from qualifying for the Skeleton competition.

MSN