South Korea's president plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and other senior North Korean officials when they visit the South this week for the Winter Olympics, his spokesman said Thursday (local time).
Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, would be the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit the South since the 1950-53 Korean War.
She is to arrive Friday (local time) on a private jet to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Games later that day, and will join South Korean President Moon Jae-in for lunch on Saturday (local time), presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.
It's highly unlikely that the luncheon will lead to an immediate breakthrough in international tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons development, but just holding such a meeting seemed unimaginable only a few months ago.
Moon is looking to the Olympics as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with North Korea after a year of heightened tensions over its nuclear and missile programs.
Analysts say Kim Yo Jong's inclusion in the Olympic delegation shows North Korea's ambition to use the Olympics to break out from diplomatic isolation by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.
A North Korean foreign ministry official, however, ruled out a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, who will be representing the US at the opening ceremony.
The North also held a military parade with tanks and tens of thousands of troops in its capital Thursday (local time) to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military. Kim Jong Un told the crowd that the parade displayed North Korea's might as a "global military power."
Pence, who arrived in South Korea on Thursday (local time), will meet separately with Moon. He is pushing South Korea to adopt a more hawkish stance toward the North and is warning against North Korean "propaganda" efforts at the games.
Kim Yo Jong has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea's leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned Kim Jong Un's absolute trust.