UN lifts travel ban on senior North Korean official for Winter Olympics visit | News | DW | 09.02.2018
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UN lifts travel ban on senior North Korean official for Winter Olympics visit

South Korea had requested the exemption for the member of the North's delegation to Pyeongchang on Wednesday. The UN also decided delegation members would be allowed to buy luxury goods while in South Korea.

A senior North Korean official attending the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be exempt from UN sanctions during his visit, senior United Nations diplomats said Thursday.

The move affects Choe Hwi, the chairman of North Korea's National Sports Guidance Committee, anonymous UN diplomats told multiple news agencies.

Choe has been subjected to a UN travel ban and asset freeze since June, when he was the vice director of the propaganda department in the ruling Workers' Party.

No objections from council members

He is the only official in the North's 22-member delegation who was on the UN targeted sanctions blacklist. The delegation also includes Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un who holds Choe's previous title, and Kim Yong Nam, the North's nominal head of state.

Thursday's exemption also applies to a country-wide UN ban on buying luxury goods.

The decision took effect after none of the 15 Security Council members raised objections to a proposal from the head of the committee that monitors sanctions against Pyongyang, Ambassador Karel Van Oosterom.

South Korean request

South Korea had requested the move in a letter to the committee on Wednesday. It said the North Korean delegation's three-day visit starting Friday "will serve as a timely opportunity to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond by promoting an environment conducive to a peaceful, diplomatic, and political solution concerning the situation on the peninsula."

The North said in January it would send a delegation to the Winter Olympics after months of tensions sparked by its latest nuclear weapons and missile tests.

The Security Council has gradually increased sanctions on North Korea since 2006 to cut off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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amp/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)