Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, were photographed sitting in front of Kim Jong-Un’s close relative during the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.
The vice president is the leader of the American delegation at this February’s games in PyeongChang, and during Friday’s opening ceremony, the Pences sat in front of the despotic leader’s sister and adviser, Kim Yo Jong, as well as the ceremonial head of North Korea, Kim Yong Nam.
The United States and North Korean dignitaries reportedly did not speak and had “no interaction,” according to a Washington Post reporter. According to The New York Times, Pence stood and cheered when Team USA arrived at the stadium but left prior to the Korean unified team’s march in. North Korea sent almost 500 representatives, including athletes and 230 people state-sanctioned cheering team to PyeongChang to join with South Korea’s delegates in an attempt for the rival nations to revive diplomatic communications.
Kim Yo Jong, believed to be 30, arrived at the Games following a massive military parade and a speech by her brother touting their nation’s “global military power.” She is reportedly the first member of Jong-Un’s family to travel South across the border since the Korean War.
The decision to send Pence as delegation leader, while not strange as the White House has sent diplomats to the Games in the past, and the current atmosphere surrounding the event is a geopolitical furnace as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have been trading insults and threats.
North Korea recently announced that they were opening a line of communication with their neighbors to discuss the Olympics. While the White House did not provide a full itinerary of the vice president’s trip, Yahoo! White House correspondent Olivier Knox said that Pence’s team offered a few notes about the trip, including saying that “the vice president is attending to reinforce the strong U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula and send a clear signal to the North Korean regime.”
The White House said that the joint Olympic team was an opportunity for North Korea to see the value of ending its international isolation by getting rid of its nuclear weapons.
“We hope that this experience gives North Korea and its athletes a small taste of freedom, and that rubs off and it’s something that spreads and impacts in these negotiations and in these conversations,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said weeks ago.