North Korea: No intention to meet USA officials

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North Korea staged a military parade in Pyongyang Thursday, one day before the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in rival South Korea.

North Korea staged a smaller-than expected military parade on the eve of the Winter Olympics in what some viewed as a provocation to the West.

By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract global attention during the Olympics, North Korea is also trying to construct a fresher and warmer public image and defuse potential USA efforts to use the Pyeongchang Games to highlight the North's brutal human rights record, experts said.

The parade, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Korean People's Army, featured tens of thousands of marching soldiers. Reporters were told the details had to be kept under wraps to make it more hard for the targets to devise methods of evading the new sanctions.

Pence was meeting President Moon on Thursday evening. Hundreds of cheerleaders, a taekwondo team and an orchestra are also travelling from North Korea.

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Flights to Denver and Philadelphia will begin on February 20, while service to Chicago O'Hare is expected to start on May 11. By this summer, more than 90 percent of the US will be covered by Frontier airlines, Freed said during the press conference.

But other family members have not fared so well - Kim Jong-Un's uncle was executed for treason two years after the younger man came to power, and his half-brother was assassinated in a Malaysian airport last year. Bandleader-cum-apparatchik Hyon Song-wol is already in South Korea leading North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra, which shows that Kim Jong-un has a lot riding on the Winter Olympics.

"President Moon will meet North Korea's high-level delegation on [Feb.] 10 and have lunch with them", said Blue House Spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom in a televised briefing. "Although, like last time, they can only be demonstrated in the form of transport-launch containers", Kim Tonöp, a member of the Center for Far Eastern Studies at the South Korean University of Könnam said. But on Wednesday the North referred to her as the first vice chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling party.

Kaesong was closed by South Korea in 2016 in protest over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

US officials have declined to elaborate on the sanctions Pence mentioned, saying any further information could help countries that might try to get around the measures - an apparent oblique reference to Chinese vessels that have been caught on satellite trading oil with North Korean ships in violation of United Nations sanctions.

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