Wed, Feb 07, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Pence leaves for Asia with warning on North Korea

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US Vice President Mike Pence on Monday departed for a trip to Japan and South Korea with a stark message that countries should not be fooled by what the White House sees as a North Korean attempt to overshadow this year’s Olympics with propaganda.

Pence is leading a US delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in part to offset efforts by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to present what US President Donald Trump’s advisers see as a facade of international goodwill and cooperation.

Officials on Monday said that North Korea’s ceremonial leader Kim Yong-nam is traveling to South Korea this week, making him the most senior North Korean official to enter the country since the Korean War ended with a truce in 1953, and raising hopes about potential inter-Korean talks.

Hundreds of North Korean officials, athletes, cheerleaders and artistic performers are also expected to attend.

Despite an optimistic tone by South Korea’s Blue House, which noted North Korea’s resolve to improve relations on the peninsula, White House officials are not convinced.

They want to keep focus on the North’s disregard for calls to halt its nuclear program, flouting UN rules and convince allies to keep putting pressure on Pyongyang.

Pence is bringing a guest to the Olympics to illustrate his point: Fred Warmbier, the father of Otto Warmbier, a US student who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months and died in June last year from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

“The vice president will be there with Mr. Warmbier at the Opening Ceremony ... to remind the world of the atrocities that happen in North Korea,” a White House official said.

Pence was expected to land in Japan yesterday. He is to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visit troops at Yokota Air Base before departing for Seoul tomorrow, where he is to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

On Friday, he will visit a memorial for 46 South Korean sailors killed in 2010 in the sinking of a warship that Seoul blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

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