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VP Pence to meet with North Korean defectors in Seoul

Posted February. 07, 2018 08:28,   

Updated February. 07, 2018 08:28


“(U.S. Vice President) Mike Pence will not go to Pyeongchang only to cut ribbons (at an opening ceremony),” said one White House official on Tuesday (local time). “The vice president will take every chance to highlight the reality of what is happening in North Korea despite any of the propaganda tactics you will see the Kim regime attempt.” Following a meeting with President Donald Trump, Pence departed for the U.S. Northern Command in Alaska where he received briefings on missile defense systems.

Vice President Pence’s visit to South Korea, which starts on Thursday, is likely to go into a direction that may be less pleasing for the Seoul government. Except for the participation in the opening ceremony, Pence’s schedule is reportedly packed with meetings or events about which the South Korean government may feel uncomfortable. What he seems to be hoping to project during his stay in South Korea can be summed up in three keywords: “Blocking North Korea’s peace overture,” “Highlighting Pyongyang’s human rights violations” and “Strengthening pressure on North Korea.” CNN reported that “these games are being treated as a platform for diplomatic warfare by both the U.S. and North Korea” and that South Korea is finding itself in a tricky situation.

U.S. media including Voice of America (VOA) have reported that Pence will have a meeting with five North Korean defectors on Friday. His move is considered to be the continuation of President Trump’s invitation of a group of North Korean defectors to Congress and the Oval Office to bring attention to Pyongyang’s human rights abuses. Also, Pence will reportedly bring to the upcoming games the father of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who died shortly after released from North Korean detention. In another move to remind the world of Pyongyang’s provocations, he will also visit a memorial located in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which is for South Korean sailors killed in the sinking of a warship that Seoul blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

Pence is understood to have been not seeking a meeting with the North during the Olympics. He had requested that his delegation be seated not close to the North Korean delegation at an event where there is a possibility of running into one another during his visit to South Korea, according to the Asahi Shimbun. An White House official was also quoted by AP Communications as saying that though he had not requested a meeting with North Korean officials, he is not ruling out a possibility of a meeting.

Jeong-Hun Park sunshade@donga.com