By Savannah Smith  |  02-06-2018   News
Photo credit: Gino Sta. Maria | Dreamstime.com

Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea today as Washington’s highest representative to the Winter Olympics, yet his visit is not more about sports but in upholding the country’s interest vis-à-vis rogue state North Korea.

Pence’s trip is also meant to ensure that Kim Jong-un-ruled North Korea will not “hijack” the games even as the North will march in seeming unity along with the South during Friday’s opening ceremonies and will also supply players for a unified Korean women’s ice hockey team.

Pence tweeted Friday: “I’ll travel to Japan & S Korea to attend the Olympics & cheer on our athletes. But I’ll also be there to deliver a message: the era of strategic patience is OVER. As N. Korea continues to test ballistic missiles & threaten the U.S, we’ll make it clear all options are on the table.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I&#39;ll travel to Japan &amp; S Korea to attend the Olympics &amp; cheer on our athletes. But I’ll also be there to deliver a message: the era of strategic patience is OVER. As N. Korea continues to test ballistic missiles &amp; threaten the U.S, we&#39;ll make it clear all options are on the table <a href="https://t.co/ABp9WWf4lS">pic.twitter.com/ABp9WWf4lS</a></p>&mdash; Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) <a href="https://twitter.com/VP/status/959541174284574720?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 2, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Pence is set to hold symbolic events of his own meant to highlight, instead of being overlooked and forgotten, the North’s human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions. Also providing as much symbolism and meaning is the fact that Pence will be bringing to the games Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, the U.S, student who died last year shortly after he was released from North Korean detention where he was made to suffer tremendously.

Pence even tweeted on Monday before departing Washington the purpose of the Warmbiers being part of the U.S, delegation to the Winter Olympics. Pence posted referring to Warmbiers: “He & his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Honored that Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, will join us at <a href="https://twitter.com/pyeongchang2018?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@pyeongchang2018</a> in S Korea. He &amp; his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea. As <a href="https://twitter.com/POTUS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@POTUS</a> made clear at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SOTU?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SOTU</a>, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory w/ American resolve <a href="https://t.co/LlPMt6SvMh">https://t.co/LlPMt6SvMh</a></p>&mdash; Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) <a href="https://twitter.com/VP/status/960560347156504576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 5, 2018</a></blockquote>

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Pence will also make a stop in Alaska as well as travel to close U.S. ally in Asia, Japan. In Alaska, Pence will tour missile defense facilities Monday that monitor and could respond to a launch by the North He is set to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. service members. Pence will visit a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North, and hold meetings with President Moon Jae-in in Korea.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Arriving in Alaska to receive a briefing at <a href="https://twitter.com/JBER_Official?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JBER_Official</a> on U.S. missile defense capabilities. Then I’ll travel to Japan &amp; South Korea for critical meetings about our maximum pressure campaign against the rogue North Korean regime. Follow along w/ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VPinASIA?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VPinASIA</a> <a href="https://t.co/0SlIQ2MvF9">pic.twitter.com/0SlIQ2MvF9</a></p>&mdash; Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) <a href="https://twitter.com/VP/status/960705292164935682?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 6, 2018</a></blockquote>

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While it seems unlikely, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, did not rule out the possibility of a U.S.-North Korea meeting at the Olympics. The games may have provided a little opening for the two Koreas to talk and possibly improve ties, but it does little or nothing to smooth tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, especially since many are seeing the moves of North Korea as targeted more against neutralizing Washington influence rather than really reaching out to their warring neighbor.

The trip comes after President Donald Trump hosted a group of North Korean defectors in the Oval Office on Friday, including Ji Seong-ho, whom the president referenced in his State of the Union address last week. The White House cast the meeting as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign to counter the North Korean nuclear program. The plan centers around rallying the international community to further isolate North Korea both diplomatically and economically.

Source:

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/02/06/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/u-s-vice-president-mike-pences-trip-asia-olympics-aimed-countering-north-korea/#.Wnkle7yWa1t

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