UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea on Wednesday proposed granting an exemption for a senior official from Pyongyang to attend the Winter Olympics in South Korea with his country's high-level delegation though he is subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.
Ambassador Karel Van Oosterom of the Netherlands, who chairs the Security Council committee, sent a proposed letter of approval to Security Council members with a deadline of 3 p.m. EST Thursday for objections. If there are none, he said the exemption will be granted for Choe Hwi, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since June 2, 2017.
South Korean Charge d'affaires Ham Sang Wook asked the committee earlier Wednesday to grant a sanctions exemption to the 23-member high-level delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — the country's official name — without naming Choe.
Ham said the delegation's participation "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."
Choe is identified on the U.N. sanctions blacklist as "First Vice Director of the Workers' Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department, which controls all DPRK media and is used by the government to control the public."
But the delegation list submitted to the sanctions committee by South Korea identifies him as "Chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission."
In a letter to the Security Council committee, Ham said the delegation is expected to attend the opening ceremony of the Games in Pyeongchang as well as engage in "high-level inter-Korean dialogue," among other events, from Friday through Sunday. He asked for a sanctions exemption for that period.
Ham noted that the committee can grant exemptions from sanctions on a case-by-case basis for any reason consistent with the objectives of relevant Security Council resolutions. He said South Korea wanted to stress that the DPRK visit is in line with council objectives that call for "efforts to engage in dialogue and reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula."
Van Oosterom's proposed letter in reply notes the exemption request for the high-level delegation, "specifically the participation of Mr. Choe Hwi" who is under sanctions, and approves his travel to South Korea.