Ivanka Trump reaffirms U.S. commitment to ‘maximum pressure’ on North
Moon hosted a dinner for Trump at the Blue House as she began a four-day trip to Korea to attend the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games as the head of the U.S. delegation.
Moon and Trump each gave brief opening remarks in front of the press before they started the dinner. While Moon promoted the importance of the talks with North Korea, Trump made it clear that her father’s administration will toughen sanctions on the Kim Jong-un regime.
“With the North’s participation in the Olympics, inter-Korean talks are actively taking place and it is contributing greatly to ease tensions on the peninsula and improve relations between the two Koreas,” Moon said. “I believe that is because of President Trump’s strong support for inter-Korean dialogue. I greatly appreciate it.”
Trump, however, put more emphasis on sanctions, seeking the Moon administration’s support. “I thank you for hosting us all here tonight as we reaffirm our bonds of friendship, of cooperation, of partnership and reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearized,” she said. “So as we continue to reaffirm our joint values and strategic cooperation as partners and allies, it is great to be here with all of you.”
The remarks were made on the eve of Washington’s anticipated announcement of new sanctions on the North. According to Reuters, the Trump administration will impose harsher sanctions on the North on Friday Washington time.
A senior administration official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity called the new penalties “the largest package of new sanctions against the North Korea regime.”
A plan to step up the sanctions was announced two weeks ago, when Vice President Mike Pence visited Japan before coming to Korea for the opening of the Olympics.
Before the dinner, Moon and Trump had a reception without their aides for 35 minutes, according to the Blue House. No details of their talks were available to the press as of 9:30 p.m.
The dinner, hosted at the Sangchunjae reception house at the Blue House, was centered on traditional Korean cuisine, including Bibimbap or “mixed rice,” to symbolize harmony. Korean and American wines were served to show friendship and unity, the Blue House said. The food was also kosher.
Trump arrived at Incheon International Airport on a Korean Air commercial flight. The U.S. delegation was received by senior Foreign Ministry officials.
“We are very excited to attend the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to cheer for Team USA and to reaffirm our strong and enduring commitment with the people of the Republic of Korea,” Trump said upon arrival at the airport.
In addition to the dinner at the Blue House, the delegation will watch some Olympic events over the weekend and attend the closing ceremony on Sunday.
Although the White House made clear that Trump has no plan to contact any North Koreans during her visit, at least one member of her delegation -- Allison Hooker, an official on the National Security Council (NSC) in charge of Korean affairs -- is acquainted with the controversial North Korean official who will head the North Korean delegation to the closing ceremony, Kim Yong-chol.
Hooker, an East Asia and Pacific affairs analyst with the U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, was appointed director for Korean affairs at the NSC in 2014. When James Clapper, then-director of National Intelligence, visited the North as an envoy of U.S. President Barack Obama in November 2014 to negotiate the release of two Americans held prisoner, Hooker accompanied him.
Clapper’s counterpart in the negotiations over the detained Americans was Kim, who headed the North Korean Reconnaissance General Bureau at the time.
When the White House initially released the names of the delegates to travel with Trump, Hooker was not included.
“Hooker will attend the presidential dinner tonight,” a Blue House official said Friday morning.
The Blue House has said it has no intention of arranging contact between the Trump and Kim’s delegations following the abrupt breakdown of a planned talk between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, on Feb. 10 following the opening ceremony of the Games. The North pulled out of the meeting just two hours before it was to start.
Speculation remains that Hooker may contact the North Korean delegates during the visit. A senior Blue House official said Friday that it would have been unnatural for Ivanka Trump to meet Kim Yong-chol to begin with. “But Moon’s message that the North and the United States must talk in the earliest future will remain unchanged,” he said.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]