Thailand, US Minimize Myanmar Military Attendance in Joint Military Training

Thailand and America downplay the meaning of the presence of Myanmar military personnel in the grand opening of the largest annual joint military exercise in Southeast Asia on Tuesday (13/2).

The Myanmar military has been accused of massive human rights abuses by crackdown on minorities Muslim-Rohingya, which made hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Bangladesh. Some members of the US Congress have demanded that Myanmar not be included in the exercise.

"The truth is Myanmar is not a participating country," US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies told reporters during a "Gold Cobra" exercise in eastern Thailand.

"They are not participants of this exercise," he asserted. He did not explain why Myanmar military personnel were present in the drill.

Thai military commander General Thanchaiyan Srisuwan admitted inviting Myanmar in the opening ceremony of the exercises. But the Myanmar flag was not flown.

The Pentagon and the US State Department last week said Thailand had invited three Myanmar military personnel to observe a part of the exercise focused on responding to natural disasters. But Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan said on Tuesday that the only Myanmar military personnel present were deputy military attachés, who were also a major. The personnel attended the opening ceremony with another defense attaché corps in Bangkok. [em/jm]

Korea Joint Hockey Team Prime Game at the Olympics

The Korean women's combined hockey team competed on Saturday for the first time in Olympic history.

The joint South Korean and North Korean team faced Switzerland in a preliminary match at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea , characterized by political issues.

Kim Yo Jong, North Korea's younger sister Kim Jong-un, attended the match, marking a meltdown between the two Koreas – technically still at war. Jong, along with North Korea's symbolic North Korean head Kim Yong Nam, watched the game with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, according to Moon's spokesman.

Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam have invited President Moon to hold inter-Korean talks in Pyongyang. When the Moon receives it, the meeting will be the third round of talks since the two countries split in 1945.

Although Switzerland massacred Korea 8-0, the historical value of the game was not lost.

After the match, the fans raised a large banner "We are one." While President Moon and President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach joined Kim Yo Jong and other officials to take pictures with the hockey team. [vm/ii]

Joint Inter-Korean Olympic Exercises Can Damage North Korean Sanctions

Just days before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, some US experts fear sports activities between the two Koreas could undermine international sanctions aimed at tightening the flow of money into North Korea and pressure the country to halt its nuclear and missile weapons programs.

Experts voiced their concerns to the VOA on a joint Korean exercise held on January 31 at the 196199007 [North Korea] Masikryong Ski Resort built and operated using equipment considered "luxury" and banned under UN sanctions

"I think it obscures the spirit of sanctions," said William Newcomb, a former US Treasury official who served as a member of the United Nations Security Expert Panel related to North Korea.

According to Joshua Stanton, a Washington-based lawyer who helped design North Korea's Sanction Enforcement Act for the Committee on Affairs Foreign Affairs of Parliament, some resort equipment such as snowmobiles and ski lifts, which if necessary could be used for day-to-day operations, could be considered a violation of sanctions imposed on North Korea. [al/as]

Malaysian and Japanese Maritime Patrol Boats Hold Joint Exercise

Malaysian maritime bodies and coast guards have been conducting joint exercises for a week, mainly exercises of resistance to piracy at sea and search and rescue operations or SAR.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency says Japan Coast Guard sent his patrol boat Tsugaru and over 50 crew for training at Kuantan Harbor, northeastern Malaysia. The agency said KM Pekan, one of two patrol boats supplied to Malaysia by Japan, would participate in the exercise.

The Malaysian maritime agency said in a statement Monday that this is the third such exercise five years to help increase capacity because "maritime piracy and cross-border maritime crime remain a significant threat" in Malaysia's maritime zone. [gp]

North Korea Cancels South Korea's Joint Cultural Show

South Korea's Unification Ministry on Monday declared North Korea to cancel a cultural show along with South Korea ahead of the winter Olympics.

Pyongyang blames South Korean media for pushing public sentiment "insulting" North Korea and canceling events February 4 will be held in North Korea to celebrate the upcoming match in PyeongChang, South Korea. According to Reuters, Seoul called the decision "very regrettable" and urged its neighbors to uphold all the deals made by the two countries.

Last week, twelve North Korean women ice hockey players crossed the border and joined fellow South Korean ice hockey players to form the first ever unified Korean Olympic team, since they were separated from the civil war of the 1950s.

The shocking offer to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics was conveyed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his New Year speech opening the way for a dialogue recovery between Pyongyang and Seoul which has suspended for the development of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program, to challenge international sanctions.

The talks resulted in an agreement between the two sides for a joint parade at the opening ceremonies of February 9 under the unified flag, as well as the combined formation of the women's hockey team.

But citizens South Korea is increasingly angry over the combined team because they believe their countrymen will lose playing time in the match which benefits North Korea due to the joining of both teams, and that President Moon Jae-in has too much to give to North Korea for his desire to participate in Pyongyang at the Olympic Games. [mg/is]