In a surprise move, North Korea will send North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister to South Korea as part of Pyongyang’s delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which opens Feb. 9.

Kim Yo Jong, vice director of the ruling Workers' Party's Propaganda and Agitation Department, is a highly important North Korean figure whose influence cannot be measured simply by her party ranking or title.

She is said to be the only person who can speak to the dictator straight from the shoulder.

North Korea’s move to inform South Korea immediately before the opening of the Olympics was a stunning diplomatic stunt apparently aimed at using the international sports event to create the impression that the secluded regime is seeking a thaw in its frosty relationship with Seoul and improve its international image.

In addition to the delegation, a North Korean art troupe and the country’s cheerleading squad have also arrived in its southern neighbor to stage a performance or root for Korean athletes together with their South Korean counterpart.

With these friendly gestures, Pyongyang also seems to be trying to raise racial consciousness within South Korea and thereby undermine Seoul’s cooperation with the United States and Japan to put pressure on the Kim regime.

Despite being aware of North Korea’s motives behind its Olympic charm offensive, we welcome talks between high-ranking officials of the two Koreas.

Pyongyang’s actions should be taken as an opportunity to make the isolated regime realize that it is in its best interest to take steps to end the tense and futile situation surrounding its reckless arms programs and convey direct messages to the leader.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to meet with Kim Yo Jong and the country’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam on Feb. 10.

During the meetings, Moon should tell them that the international community will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

After that, however, Moon should confirm to them that there is a way for North Korea to receive political and economic rewards if it chooses to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

This prospect was included in a joint statement issued in 2005 after six-party talks over North Korea’s weapons programs.

The situation has changed radically since then with North Korea now claiming to possess nuclear arms.

But the fact remains that the Kim regime’s principal diplomatic goal is to obtain a guarantee from Washington that there will be no attempt to topple his regime.

It is important to ensure that the fresh inter-Korean dialogue will open the door to negotiations between North Korea and the United States.

To promote this diplomatic goal, the Moon administration should have in-depth discussions on related issues with the Japanese and U.S. governments to coordinate their stances before holding talks with North Korean officials.

The Mangyongbong 92, the North Korean ferry that has carried the country’s art troupe, has been allowed to enter a South Korean port as an exception to a ban on North Korean ships’ port calls in the South as part of the sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea will undoubtedly make continued efforts to seek more such exceptions to strip the teeth from the sanctions.

But the Moon administration should not fall for North Korea’s tricks and maneuvers.

The Kim regime’s real motive was symbolized by a military parade staged on Feb. 8 in Pyongyang.

While welcoming inter-Korean human exchanges during the Olympics, the Moon administration needs to deal with meetings with the North Korean delegates with cool prudence and focus on negotiations to persuade Pyongyang to stop, for good, the kind of provocative acts it has repeatedly taken in the past.

The Japanese government cannot afford to sit back and do nothing in response to Kim Yo Jong’s visit to South Korea.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished no concrete achievement in its efforts to resolve the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese citizens, which it has described as its top foreign policy priority.

The administration should try to take such occasions as welcome events to have contact with Kim Jong Un’s sister to convey directly its messages about the bilateral issue as well as about Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 9