Ivanka won’t meet North Koreans on trip

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Ivanka won’t meet North Koreans on trip

Ivanka Trump, who will lead a U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Korea, has no plan to have any contact with North Korean delegates, officials from the White House and the Blue House said Thursday.

The White House formally announced Wednesday, Washington time, that President Donald Trump will send a delegation to Korea for the closing ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in Gangwon.

Ivanka Trump, assistant to the president and advisor, will lead the delegation, it said.

She is scheduled to arrive in Korea today and have dinner with President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House, according to Moon’s aides. The dinner will be hosted at the Sangchunjae, which serves as a reception building for dignitaries. Located in the garden of the Blue House, it features traditional Korean architecture.

Since he took office last May, Moon used the venue only once to receive foreign guests - for President Trump last November.

Others in the delegation include Sen. James Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea.

After the presidential dinner at the Blue House, Ivanka Trump will spend the weekend in Gangwon to watch some games and attend the closing ceremony scheduled for Sunday.

A U.S. official said Ivanka Trump has no plans to meet with any North Koreans during her visit. They also denied Korean media reports that she plans to meet with North Korean defectors. The source admitted that countering North Korea’s Olympics charm offensive is still a part of her mission.

The official said she has no major diplomatic activities planned during her visit, including a public speech, because the trip is to support the U.S. athletes, reaffirm the Korea-U.S. alliance and congratulate Seoul for its successful hosting of the Olympics.

A senior Blue House official also said Thursday that the South will not mediate talks between the U.S. and North Korean delegations this time. “The two sides attempted once to meet last time, and they confirmed each other’s stance during that process,” he said. “So, there will be no immediate contact this time.”

But Ivanka Trump is expected to be in close proximity to the North Korean delegation, at least for the closing ceremony. Pyongyang announced Thursday that it will send a delegation to the event.

Just two weeks ago, North Korea and the United States almost had a top-level talk in Seoul. Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence were set to meet on Feb. 10 at the Blue House, but the North pulled out at the last minute.

The North complained that it was unhappy with Pence’s messages to the North throughout his trip. Pence threatened more aggressive economic sanctions against the North and met with defectors in the South to highlight Pyongyang’s rights abuses.

“The president made a decision that if they wanted to talk, we would deliver our uncompromising message,” a senior National Security Council official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday of the failed Kim-Pence meeting. “If they asked for a meeting, we would meet. He also made clear that, until they agreed to complete denuclearization, we weren’t going to change any of our positions or negotiate.”

Since the recent inter-Korean rapprochement, Moon has tirelessly promoted a North Korea-U.S. dialogue, including the failed Kim-Pence meeting earlier this month.

U.S. officials told the New York Times that Ivanka Trump was fully prepared to discuss her father’s so-called maximum pressure campaign on Pyongyang with Moon, South Korean media or with North Korean officials should she ran into any.

She was reportedly briefed about Korean Peninsula issues by the National Security Council, and Allison Hooker, an official on the council in charge of Korean affairs, is accompanying Ivanka Trump on the trip.

Sen. Risch, a member of the U.S. delegation, also maintains a hardline position toward the North. He warned last week at the Munich Security Conference that any conflict between the United States and the North would be of “biblical proportions.”

BY SER MYO-JA, JUNG HYO-SIK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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