North Korea reportedly canceled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence set for Saturday Feb. 10, the day after the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Games, but, now that tensions have had some time to ease, is the US planning a clandestine meeting at Sunday’s closing ceremonies?
It’s certainly beginning to look that way.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, senior Trump adviser (and America’s surrogate first lady) Ivanka Trump will attend the closing ceremonies, raising the possibility that she might “accidentally bump into” a high-level North Korean delegation led by Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party and one of the country’s most powerful generals.
Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, will arrive in the South on Sunday for a three-day stay, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said Thursday. The Seoul government said that it approved the visit to further its goals of improving inter-Korean relations and pursuing denuclearization.
The notification by the North came hours after the White House announced a high-level delegation that includes Ms. Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, and Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.
Pence was famously caught on camera steadfastly ignoring the North Korean delegation seated right behind him at the Opening Ceremonies – but was planning the whole while to meet up behind the scenes, reportedly to “deliver the administration’s tough stance in person.”
As WSJ explains, Kim Yong Chol, who isn’t related to the North Korean leader, is widely believed to be the leader of Pyongyang’s military-intelligence apparatus. The Seoul government said Kim will be accompanied by Ri Son Gwon, who’s responsible for managing relations with the South, and represented the North when the two Koreas met last month at the demilitarized zone dividing the Korean Peninsula. The two men will be accompanied by a six-man support staff.
Ivanka Trump will be accompanied by James Risch, R-Idaho, and also by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will give particular support to the female athletes competing at the Games, according to RT. US Army National Guard soldier and Olympic medal-winning bobsledder Shauna Rohbock will also join the delegation.
“Sarah’s going as a female to help cheer on all of the female athletes and highlight the women’s sports and success our female athletes have had at this year’s Olympic Games,” a White House official said.
“I am honored to lead the US delegation to the closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics,” Ivanka Trump said.
“We look forward to congratulating Team USA and celebrating all that our athletes have achieved. Their talent, drive, grit and spirit embodies American excellence, and inspire us all.”
The delegation’s primary goal is to reaffirm America’s cooperation with South Korea over denuclearizing the peninsula, while highlighting American athletes’ achievements at the 2018 Games.
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In a separate report that, in our opinion, raises the likelihood of a North Korea meeting, Ivanka Trump will reportedly meet with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in on Friday.
According to Reuters, a senior administration official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Trump will dine with Moon at the Blue House in Seoul on Friday night.
The White House insisted Trump has no plans to meet with the North Koreans – but we’ve heard that excuse before. In an amusing twist, Trump will fly commercial to South Korea, a gesture of good faith after no fewer than five administration officials have already been investigated for travel-related abuses.
There are no plans for Trump to engage in “substantive discussions” about the dispute with North Korea.
“The purpose of the trip is to cheer on American athletes, reaffirm the U.S.-South Korea alliance and celebrate the successful Games,” a White House official said.