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North Korea

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The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics kicked off on Friday — at 8 p.m. in South Korea and at 6 a.m. ET in the U.S. — with 2,900 athletes from 92 countries gathering to compete for 102 medals in Pyeongchang.

The U.S. Olympic team was led into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium by flag-bearer Erin Hamlin.

The Winter Games run from Feb. 9-25. The Paralympics will use many of the same facilities, with 670 athletes competing from March 9-18.

Our recap of the big event:

The ceremony begins

Vice President Pence, who will lead the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday, says he is prepared to announce the "toughest" economic sanctions yet on North Korea.

At the start of a six-day visit to Japan and South Korea, the vice president said the U.S. "will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever — and we will continue to isolate North Korea until it abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all."

North Korea's ceremonial leader, Kim Yong Nam, will visit South Korea as part of a high-level delegation attending the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics this week amid somewhat eased tensions between the bitter rivals.

Kim is the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and is the nominal head of North Korea, although nearly all real power is concentrated in the hands of third-generation hereditary ruler, Kim Jong Un.

Japan's public broadcaster sent out a false alert warning of a North Korean missile on Tuesday, just three days after Hawaii residents received an erroneous message about an incoming missile.

"North Korea appears to have launched a missile ... The government urges people to take shelter inside buildings or underground," the message read, according to a translation from Reuters.

Updated at 2:05 p.m. ET

Cocooned by cameras, North Korea's negotiating team crossed the border Tuesday by foot, walking about 100 yards to a conference building for the first high-level talks with South Korea in two years. Seated across from one another at a long rectangular table, diplomats from both sides expressed the need to improve frosty ties.

The Army is training thousands more soldiers in tunnel warfare, part of an effort to be ready to offer President Trump military options for North Korea, U.S. officials tell NPR.

North Korea is honeycombed with thousands of tunnels and bunkers, some of them discovered leading across the border and close to the South Korean capital, Seoul. Others in North Korea are hundreds of feet deep and could be used to hide troops and artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Updated at 1:55 a.m. ET

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are once again publicly comparing the size of their respective nuclear arsenals, with the president tweeting that the U.S. "nuclear button" is "much bigger & more powerful" than the one controlled by Pyongyang.

South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-flagged vessel under suspicions that it illegally transferred oil to North Korea, in violation of U.N. sanctions. The vessel, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized one month after it allegedly ferried oil, South Korean media report.

Such ship-to-ship transfers are prohibited by a U.N. Security Council Resolution that was adopted in September, part of a suite of sanctions that target North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced new sanctions on two individuals within the North Korean government, both of whom are reportedly prominent figures within Kim Jong Un's ballistic weapons development program.

Ri Pyong Chol and Kim Jong Sik are now both blacklisted — which means any assets they have in the U.S. will be frozen, although as NPR's David Welna notes, "It's not clear whether either of them, in fact, has any U.S. assets." Additionally, Americans will generally be prohibited from doing business with them.

North Korea on Sunday called the latest U.N. sanctions against the country "an act of war" that violates its sovereignty.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously decided to adopt a resolution tightening sanctions — further cutting oil supplies and cracking down on what the U.S. sees as a North Korean slave labor market. The resolution issued last week was a rebuke to North Korea that prompted Pyongyang to declare that it would further upgrade its nuclear force.

In 1965, Charles Jenkins, a young U.S. Army sergeant stationed at the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, made what he described decades later as the biggest mistake of his life: He got drunk, deserted his post and crossed over to North Korea.

Jenkins spent the next four decades as a Cold War trophy of Pyongyang and the last years of his life — after being freed in 2004 — on a small, isolated island in Japan with his wife, Hitomi Soga, a Japanese citizen who had also been freed after being abducted by North Korean spies in 1978.

The United States and South Korea launched a massive joint military air exercise on Monday amid increased tensions with North Korea over its nuclear program and recent ballistic missile tests.

The five-day Vigilant Ace exercise includes some 12,000 military personnel and 230 aircraft – including six F-22 and 18 F-35s, both with stealth capabilities. South Korean media said B-1 bombers would also participate in the exercise, but the Air Force declined to confirm that.

North Korea says a new intercontinental ballistic missile tested on Wednesday proves it has a nuclear deterrent that can reach any target in the United States.

According to a statement from the Korean Central News Agency, the ICBM is capable of carrying a "super-large heavy warhead, which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S."

Updated at 3 a.m. ET on Wednesday

North Korean state media say the country has launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile called the Hwasong-15. The statement says the missile is North Korea's most powerful ever and can reach all of the United States.

Earlier the Pentagon's initial assessment said the missile was an ICBM, the third tested by North Korea.

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