♦ North has no plans to use Olympics ceremony as political vehicle: KCNA
♦ Major military parade held in N Korean capital
North Korea has no intention of meeting US officials during the Winter Olympics that start in South Korea today, state media said, dampening hopes the Games will help resolve a tense standoff over the North's nuclear weapons programme.
However, the North's high-ranking delegation, including the younger sister of its leader Kim Jong Un, will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in and have lunch with him tomorrow.
It is the first time that a member of Kim's ruling dynasty has visited the South since the Korean war of 1950 to 1953. Such a high-level meeting would have been unimaginable even a few months ago, but Moon sees the Winter Olympics as a chance to make diplomatic inroads with the North.
The apparent thaw has not been reflected in Washington. US Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the US delegation to the Olympics, has accused Pyonyang of using the games for its own ends. "We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games," he said in Japan earlier this week.
Pyongyang has ruled out a meeting with the US delegation during the Winter Games. Jo Yong Sam, department director general of North Korea's foreign ministry, said yesterday the country had never "begged the US for dialogue" and wasn't about to start now.
"We have no intention to meet the US side during our visit to South Korea," Jo said in a terse statement reported by state-run news agency KCNA.
The US has given mixed signals about its willingness to talk. Pence appeared to leave the door open for negotiations earlier this week when he said, "I haven't requested any meeting. But we'll see what happens."
Pence, who has described North Korea as the world's most tyrannical regime, spoke with Moon yesterday ahead of the opening ceremony in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang, just 80 km from the heavily armed border with the reclusive North.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters all sides, not just the two Koreas, needed to work hard and dialogue between the United States and North Korea should be expanded for this to happen, Wang said.
"You can't have it that one person opens the door and another closes it," he said.
North Korea marked the founding anniversary of its army with a large military parade in Pyongyang yesterday broadcast by state media, having last month changed the date of the celebration to the eve of the Olympics.