Pence to visit memorial for torpedoed warship, underscoring danger of North Korea

Pauline Gross
February 9, 2018

He said the South Korean government wanted to stress that the DPRK visit is in line with council objectives that call for "efforts to engage in dialogue and reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula".

However, when asked on Thursday about the possibility of meetings between Pence or U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, who will attend the closing ceremonies, and Kim's sister, White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters in Washington: "There's no meetings planned whatsoever".

And while the vice president pledged that the US would "continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with the South on bringing peace to the region, he made no mention of dialogue with the North, and instead called for bringing "maximum pressure to bear on North Korea until that time comes when they finally and permanently and irreversibly abandon their nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions".

The UN Security Council on Thursday gave permission for a North Korean official under global sanctions to travel to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics along with Kim Jong Un's sister, diplomats said. Kim made an eleventh-hour proposal to take part in the Games during his annual New Year's address.

Even as it held the parade, the North is on an Olympics-linked charm offensive - sending a troupe of performers, hundreds of female cheerleaders and Mr Kim Jong Un's sister to South Korea.

Pence avoided public criticism of Moon, congratulating South Korea on hosting the games and pledging continued support in addressing the North's nuclear threat.

7 of 9 North Korea held the parade a day before South Korea hosts the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Some 140 members of North Korea's Samjiyon Orchestra were giving their first performance at the Gangneung Art Centre since arriving in the South Tuesday.

Kim Kwang-jin, a research fellow at South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), told RFA's Korean Service that Pence has sought to show that the US doubts North Korea's intentions in using the Winter Olympics as a diplomatic channel to end its isolation.

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Another protester, with a giant South Korean flag wrapped around her shoulders, said: "Don't you know what is at stake?"

The band were expected to perform a mix of South Korean pop songs from the 1980s, as well as North Korean music.

Pence's personal guest at the games will be Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, an American who died previous year days after his release from captivity in North Korea.

According to Kim, Pence's decision to invite Warmbier to the Games was meant to remind the worldwide community of the North's provocative actions and rights abuses, despite what he said was a bid by Pyongyang to "improve their image in Pyeongchang".

With less than two hours before the performance, North and South Korean officials wrestled over the play list, as some of its own songs had controversial lyrics.

Protesters say North Korea, which only confirmed its participation last month, has been allowed to hijack the Pyeongchang Games.

The North has technology in place to make sure information can't cross over.

But privately, officials said Pence expressed concern to Moon about his more conciliatory tone toward North Korea.

However, Seoul has hinted at attempting to forge closer relations with Pyongyang, saying today the South would be open to discussing resuming tours to North Korea's Mount Kumgang once the security of tourists was guaranteed and conditions relating to North Korea's nuclear programme were met.

Other reports by GizPress

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