Ivanka Trump and North Koreans continue mutual silent treatment at Winter Olympics
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Ivanka Trump sat just a few feet away from former North Korean spy chief Kim Young Chol for the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony Sunday, but the two sides did not have any interaction.
The awkward situation comes as North Korea earlier on Sunday called for direct talks with the United States over its nuclear and ballistic missile.
Trump, the daughter of President Trump, was seated next to Kim Jung-suk, the first lady of South Korea, for much of the ceremony. While North Korean general Kim Yong Chol sat just one row behind them.
But there was no interaction between Trump and the North Korean delegation, according to a senior administration official.
Both Trump and Kim appeared to stand and clap as the North and South Korean athletes marched through the stadium during the ceremony.
Trump’s reaction contrasted with Vice President Pence, who stayed seated when South and North Korean athletes marched together for the Winter Games Opening Ceremony.
The Trump administration announced new sanctions targeting North Korea on Friday, the latest effort to pressure Pyeongyang to give up its nuclear program.
Earlier on Sunday, a spokesman for the South Korean President Moon said Kim Yong Chol informed Seoul that the North stands ready to hold talks with the United States on its nuclear development, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports.
The White House did not offer immediate response to the North’s call for talks.
Administration officials said ahead of Trump’s trip to South Korea that they did not anticipate her interacting with the North Korean delegation
Trump, who was leading the U.S. delegation, briefed South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the new set of sanctions and delivered a personal message from her father to him soon after she arrived in Seoul on Friday for her four-day visit.
The First Daughter, who also doubles as a senior adviser to the president, in some ways would seem an unlikely interlocutor on Korean Peninsula. Her White House portfolio includes domestic issues such as economic empowerment and promoting job creation.
General Kim, who is also a senior official in the North’s ruling Worker’s Party, was also a provocative pick for the North to send to the Games. Officials in the South believe that Kim played a critical role in an attack on a South Korean naval vessel in 2010 that killed 46 sailors.
Tensions between the North and South have been decreasing since Kim Jong Un decided to send 22 athletes and dozens of cheerleaders and cultural ambassadors to take part in the Pyeongchang Olympics. But the U.S. remains suspicious of the North’s charm offensive and doubtful that the Kim regime will move to curb its nuclear program.
The awkward seating arrangement in President Moon’s box was somewhat similar to the situation at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games.
Vice President Pence and his wife were seated just a row in front of Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
Pence did not have any interaction with the North Koreans, but the vice president’s office later said that officials from the North approached his team about holding a meeting on the sideline of the Games.
Pence agreed, but the North Koreans backed out at the last minute, according to the White House.