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(LEAD) (Olympics) N. Korea's No. 2 man arrives in Rio for Olympics

2016/08/04 21:27

(ATTN: ADDS details, photo)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's No. 2 man arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday to attend the Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, landed at Galeao International Airport Thursday morning. He'd flown through China and Cuba and arrived in Sao Paulo before taking a short flight to Rio.

The 31st Summer Games will open Friday. Choe is expected to stay here for about a week.

North Korea will be represented by 31 athletes in nine sports in Rio.

Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, enters a vehicle after arriving at Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics opening ceremony on Aug. 4, 2016. (Yonhap) Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, enters a vehicle after arriving at Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Olympics opening ceremony on Aug. 4, 2016. (Yonhap)

It remains unclear if Choe, who doubles as the head of North Korea's commission for physical culture and sports, will meet with any South Korean officials in Rio. Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean-born U.N. secretary-general, is also in Rio to join the torch relay and attend the opening ceremony.

Chang Ung, the lone North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee, told Yonhap News Agency Wednesday that Choe's position is equivalent to vice president.

Choe was greeted by Kim Chol-hak, North Korea's ambassador to Brazil, and officials of the North Korean delegation.

Choe refused to answer questions from South Korean reporters at the airport as he was escorted to a waiting vehicle and headed to a downtown hotel.

In 2014, North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. He met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

North Korea and Brazil established diplomatic ties in March 2001. North Korea opened its embassy in Brazil in July 2005, while Brazil set up its mission in Pyongyang in July 2009.

Choe Ryong-hae (second from R), vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, shakes hands with an official of the North Korean athletic delegation to the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics after arriving in the Brazilian city on Aug. 4, 2016. (Yonhap) Choe Ryong-hae (second from R), vice chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, shakes hands with an official of the North Korean athletic delegation to the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics after arriving in the Brazilian city on Aug. 4, 2016. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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