|Ivanka Trump (left), cheers with Kim Jung-sook, wife of the South Korean President during the men’s Big Air snowboard competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday. (AP)|
Ivanka Trump, who is one of her father’s close advisers, is leading the US delegation at this weekend’s closing ceremony for the Pyeongchang Games. Under cloudy skies, she watched her first event Saturday morning — big-air snowboarding.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in highlighted to Trump how the Olympics have served as a vehicle for dialogue between the two Koreas, and said the US and South Korea should make use of the current mood of rapprochement between the Koreas in seeking denuclearization.
At a closed-door meeting before a banquet Friday night at the presidential compound, Moon told Trump that talks on denuclearization and the inter-Korean dialogue must move forward side by side, Moon’s press secretary, Yoon Young-chan, told reporters. Trump responded by pushing for joint efforts by the US and South Korea to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, Yoon said.
The differences in how the US and South Korea hope to achieve denuclearization were also apparent during the banquet. In her remarks, Trump said she was in South Korea to celebrate the Olympics and to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to a “maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized.”
On Friday, the Trump administration announced sanctions on more than 50 vessels, shipping companies and trade businesses to turn up the pressure on North Korea. US officials said that Trump had discussed the action with Moon ahead of the announcement in Washington.
In Pyeongchang on Saturday morning, Ivanka Trump watched snowboarders go on runs at the big-air jump. A smiling Trump, wearing a Team USA hat and red snowsuit, chatted with members of her delegation and South Korea first lady Kim Jung-suk. Also with her was IOC board member and 1998 hockey gold medalist Angela Ruggiero.
A high-level North Korean delegation will also attend Sunday’s Olympic closing ceremony, but the South Korean government said it’s unlikely that Ivanka Trump will meet the North Koreans. Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the Olympics’ opening ceremony, sat awkwardly in a VIP box with the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un behind him. The two had no apparent contact.
Moon hopes to make the Olympics an avenue for peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.
“North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games has served as an opportunity for us to engage in active discussions between the two Koreas and this has led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations,” Moon said.
Moon met Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, a day after the opening ceremony and urged North Korea to do more to engage in a dialogue with the United States.
While the games appear to have paved the way for possible rapprochement between the Koreas, US and North Korean officials have yet to make direct contact. Earlier this week, the US government said Pence had been set to meet North Korean officials during his visit to South Korea, but that the North Korean side canceled at the last minute.
For now, there are no signs that Ivanka Trump will meet Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, who is to attend the closing ceremony.
The White House has emphasized that the purpose of her visit is to celebrate the achievements of the athletes, noting that she is a winter sports enthusiast herself. She is expected to attend the games on Saturday before Sunday’s closing ceremony. (AP)