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Pope praises joint Korean Olympic teams, Vatican willing to back peace initiatives


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Thursday, 8 February 2018 00:00


 

Vatican City (Reuters): Pope Francis said yesterday the participation of North Korean athletes in the Olympics raised hopes for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and that the Vatican was ready to back any peace initiative.

“The traditional Olympic truce acquires special importance this year,” he told pilgrims and tourists at his weekly general audience.

Delegations from the two Koreas will march together under a single flag and athletes will compete as a single team in some sports at the Winter Games starting on 9 February in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“This allows for hope for a world where conflicts can be resolved peacefully through dialogue and reciprocal respect, as sport teaches us to do,” he said. “May these Olympics be a great feast of friendship and sport,” he said, adding that the Vatican was ready to back any “useful peace initiative that favours peace and encounter among peoples.”

Francis has in the past called on all nations to support dialogue to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to work for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons.

Last year he said a third country, such as Norway, should try to mediate the dispute between North Korea and Washington, to cool a situation that had become “too hot” and posed the risk of nuclear devastation.

The pope, who is a soccer fan, said he would be accompanying the Games with his prayers.


 

 

North Korean leader’s sister to visit South Korea for winter Olympics

Seoul (Reuters): North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s 28-year-old sister will make her debut on the world stage when she visits South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on 9 February, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

Pyongyang told Seoul that Kim Yo Jong would accompany Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, along with Choe Hwi, chairman of the National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, who led inter-Korean talks last month, according to the ministry.

Kim Yo Jong would be the first member of the Kim family, born on the sacred Mount Paektu, which is a centrepiece of the North’s idolisation and propaganda campaign, to cross the border to the South.

Her inclusion in the delegation is “meaningful” as she is not only the sister of the country’s leader but has a significant position as a senior official of the ruling Workers’ Party, the South’s presidential Blue House said.

“It shows the North’s resolve to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a news briefing.

But the trip could become 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, while Choe faces 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 body.

The opening ceremony will also be attended by US Vice President Mike Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other world leaders.


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