South Korea says it will discuss with the United States and other countries whether to meet a request by Pyongyang to provide fuel for a North Korean ferry that transported an art troupe to the South for a performance during the Winter Olympics.
The South’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said on Wednesday that Pyongyang had asked Seoul to supply fuel for the 9,700-ton Mangyongbong-92. He did not say how much fuel had been requested.
Carrying 114 members of an art troupe, the ship arrived at an eastern South Korean port on Tuesday afternoon. It was allowed into South Korean waters under an exception to the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its weapons programs. The South said previously that it was inevitable to exceptionally lift the sanctions to ensure the successful hosting of the Pyeongchang Games.
Under the sanctions, North Korean vessels are banned from sailing in South Korean waters or docking at South Korean ports.
“We will closely discuss with the United States and other related nations the matter of providing convenience to the Mangyongbong ferry so that no problem regarding sanctions would occur,” said Baik, the South Korean spokesman.
The artists left the ship on Wednesday for a rehearsal in Gangneung, but the 96 crew members and attendants stayed aboard, according to Baik. It will be their home during their stay in the country.
According to Yonhap news agency, the South Korean Unification Ministry had said earlier on Tuesday that it was likely to provide food, fuel, and electricity to the ship during its stay. But it said later that Pyongyang had not asked for elaborate services and nothing specific had been decided.
The artists are scheduled to perform in Gangneung on Thursday and in Seoul on February 11.
The North also sent a 280-strong delegation via the land border to the South on Wednesday. The delegation includes 229 members of a state-trained cheering group and national Olympic officials, journalists, and members of a taekwondo demonstration team.
The North and South Korea have been physically separated by a heavily-militarized border since the three-year Korean War came to an end in 1953. The conflict ended with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty and left many families separated at the two sides.
Ever since, they have engaged in diplomatic and other sorts of hostilities.
The last time South Korea hosted an Olympics — in 1988 — Pyongyang refused to participate. Seoul’s hosting of the Games for the second time now has raised hopes of uniting the Korean Peninsula.