February 06, 2018 09:23
North Korea has tested the waters by telling South Korea that it will send the 140-member Samjiyon Orchestra by ferry even though sanctions ban ships from the North.
North Korea's Mangyongbong-92 cruise ship would not only bring the performers to South Korea but serve as their accommodation during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
South Korean sanctions imposed on May 24 ban all North Korean ships from South Korean ports, but the government said it will make an exception this time.
Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said, "North Korea informed us that the main group of North Korean performers will arrive on Tuesday aboard the Mangyongbong-92." The ferry docks at Mukho port in Gangwon Province on Tuesday evening.
A maritime police boat and a helicopter will provide close escort for the ferry, and a team of special forces has been assigned to the task as well.
North Korea seems to have made a deliberate decision to see if it can win an exception from sanctions. The spokesman said, "We are considering making an exception to the sanctions to ensure the success of the Olympics. We will consult closely with the U.S. and the international community so that no rules are broken."
The orchestra members were originally to come through the border truce village of Panmunjom, but then the North changed its plans in a message on Jan. 23, shifting the route. It then changed its mind again on Sunday night.
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