UPDATE - S.Korea seeks understanding for breaking NK sanctions

Seoul prepares to welcome controversial members of North Korean regime for Winter Olympics


By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) - South Korea insisted Thursday that any breaking of UN sanctions in order to host North Korean officials for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will only be "temporary."

Seoul is set Friday to welcome North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong along with senior official Choe Hwi, who are blacklisted under American and UN sanctions, respectively.

They will be joined in the South by Kim Yong-nam, Pyongyang's nominal head of state.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk asked for understanding that the South Korean government "has taken what it thought [are] necessary and minimum measures to make sure of a successful hosting of the games."

Another potentially contentious issue could be the North Korean delegation's trip by air to the South. The North's only airline, Air Koryo, is also blacklisted.

Noh added that such "exceptions" would be limited to the period of the South hosting the Winter Olympics this month.

Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea ahead of Friday's PyeongChang 2018 opening ceremony, which will also be attended by North Korea's delegates.

Pence and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday asserted "stronger than ever" alliance between the two countries and underlined their unity in bringing North Korea to denuclearization talks through "maximum pressure", according to local news agency Yonhap.

South Korean president said Pence's trip to South Korea will greatly help make the PyeongChang Olympic Games a peaceful event.

Washington has been clear that it will not pander to any charm offensive by the North, which continues to develop nuclear weapons despite global punitive measures.

Pyongyang's state media showed off a military parade Thursday including footage of an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile.

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