Vice President Mike Pence departs Monday for a five-day trip to Japan and South Korea, a visit to Asia intended to focus almost entirely on rallying allies to ratchet up their pressure on Kim Jong Un’s repressive regime, as well as directly pressing North Korea to stop its nuclear ambitions.
Even his final stop – leading the U.S. delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Friday night, and attending an Olympic event Saturday morning – has a clear geopolitical undertone: to combat North Korean propaganda amid the Olympic festivities, White House officials said.
Fred Warmbier – the father of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed and sentenced to hard labor in North Korea, and died upon returning to the United States – will attend the opening ceremony with Pence.
The trip, White House officials said, has two main goals.
“The first one is that we are seeing unprecedented cooperation from the international community from the maximum pressure strategy targeting North Korea,” said Jarrod Agen, Pence’s communications director. “The vice president will deliver a message that the maximum pressure strategy is only going to intensify.”
The second goal is to ensure that the Olympics don’t turn into an opportunity for North Korea to burnish its image on the world stage. In January, North and South Korea agreed to try to resolve their tensions through dialogue, marking the first negotiations between the two countries since 2015 and frustrating some in the Trump administration as it attempts to take an even more hard-line stance against the regime.
“We’re not going to let the North Korea propaganda machine hijack the messaging of the Olympics,” Agen said. “The vice president will remind the world that anything the North Koreans do during the Olympics is a charade to disguise the reality of the oppression inside North Korea.”
Washington Post . 2018