A North Korean official and former intelligence chief thought to be responsible for the deaths of dozens of South Koreans will lead Kim Jong Un’s delegation at the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Games; raising the stakes as tensions in the region remain at an all-time high.
According to Fox News, 72-year old Kim Yong Chol will lead the eight-member delegation to visit South Korea for the final three days of the international competition. The former intelligence official currently sits as the Vice Chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee.
Regional experts believe Kim was the mastermind behind a deadly North Korean attack on a South Korean warship in 2010; killing over 40 sailors and injuring dozens more.
“During Kim’s time in the intelligence agency, which is called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea was suspected of carrying out the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment,” writes Fox News. “The department is tasked with carrying out cyber warfare and intelligence operations against other countries.”
US officials and South Korean authorities confirmed that Kim was placed on an international “blacklist” over his alleged crimes, but claim his “blacklist” status won’t impact his visit to South Korea; adding the restrictions don’t include a “travel ban.”
CRISIS IN KOREA: 4.7 Million North Koreans Join Kim's Army to 'Destroy' USA
North Korean state-run media claimed Thursday that nearly five million citizens enlisted or re-enlisted in the country’s military to help defend the communist nation should war break out on the Korean peninsula.
According to USA Today, North Korean officials released a statement saying that millions of citizens have joined Kim’s army to “bring fire” to the United States. Over one million women enlisted to help the dictator “counter” American forces in the region.
“Over the past six days, millions of young men expressed their will for military enlistment to counter the U.S. force, and even some 1.22 million women vowed to voluntarily follow suit,” said the news agency.
The statement from Pyongyang comes hours after the Chinese government announced they would be shutting down all Korean-backed businesses operating in China within 120 days. Beijing’s new policy effectively cripples the North Korean economy, making it nearly impossible to import fuel, food, and other necessities.
China’s decision comes on the heels of punishing, US-led sanctions from the United Nations following Kim’s continued nuclear and missile tests. Earlier this month, dictator Kim Jong Un successfully tested a hydrogen bomb and launched a medium-range ballistic missile over Japanese Territory.
In response, President Trump warned Kim that the United States was prepared to “totally destroy” his regime should he continue to expand his weapons and missile programs; saying that “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un was on a “suicide mission” against the United States.
CRISIS IN KOREA: 'Mad Mog' Mattis Tells Army to 'Be Ready' for War with Kim
Secretary of Defense James ‘Mad Dod’ Mattis told members of the US military to “be ready” on Monday, warning the Army that all-out war could erupt on the Korean peninsula should dictator Kim Jong Un continue his illegal nuclear and missile programs.
Mattis was speaking at an annual meeting of the United States Army when he was asked about the Trump administration’s policy regarding North Korea.
“I suspect your probably not going to reveal the intricate details of your Korea strategy, but what can the U.S. military do to lessen the likelihood of conflict on the Korean peninsula?” asked one questioner.
“What a great question. Let me talk about Korea for a minute because it’s on all of our minds,” said the Defense Secretary. “It is right now a diplomatically led, economic sanction-buttressed effort to try to turn North Korea off this path. What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say.”
“There’s one thing the US Army can do. You have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our President can employ if needed,” he added.
President Trump commented on the escalating crisis unfolding on the Korean peninsula earlier Monday, saying that “25 years” worth of diplomacy have yielded little results, and that “policy didn’t work.”
Military experts and officials believe North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is preparing a major provocation in the region to mark Monday’s national holiday; possibly firing another missile or testing a nuclear warhead to mark the founding of the nation’s ruling communist party.
Watch the Secretary of Defense’s comments above.