Ivanka Trump Meets South Korean Leader
Kim Min-Hee/Associated Press
GANGNEUNG, South Korea—U.S. presidential adviser
arrived in Seoul on Friday as South Korea’s leader faced a backlash for agreeing to host a North Korean general blamed for the deaths of 46 South Korean sailors.
Ms. Trump, daughter of President
landed in the afternoon and headed to the presidential Blue House in Seoul for a dinner with President
She is scheduled to attend the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony Sunday, where a North Korean delegation also will be present. South Korean officials have said it’s unlikely that Ms. Trump would meet the North Koreans.
The decision by Mr. Moon to accept a North Korean delegation headed by military leader
Kim Yong Chol,
a four-star general sanctioned by Seoul and Washington for allegedly masterminding two deadly attacks on South Korea, triggered sharp domestic criticism.
a senior lawmaker in the main conservative opposition party, said Seoul shouldn’t allow the general to set foot in South Korea. “If he does come, the war criminal should be arrested and jailed immediately,” he said in a Facebook post.
Lawmakers of the main opposition party protested outside the Blue House on Friday. The families of the 46 sailors killed in the March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan naval vessel said they would hold a rally Saturday in Seoul to protest the general’s arrival, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
JoongAng Ilbo, a center-right newspaper, said in an editorial that the Moon administration should ask Pyongyang to “send someone less controversial.”
In an unusual move, Seoul’s Ministry of Unification issued a six-page statement explaining the government’s decision, saying that while North Korea was responsible for the attack, it was unclear whether Mr. Kim had personally played a role. The ministry said Mr. Kim is barred from financial transactions with South Korean entities under South Korean sanctions but that he’s free to visit the South.
In November 2010, the South’s defense minister told lawmakers that Mr. Kim helped plan the attack on the Cheonan, as well as the shelling of a South Korean island in which two Marines were killed. North Korea has denied involvement in the incidents altogether.
During his trip to South Korea for the Olympics’ opening ceremony, Vice President
visited a memorial hall for the victims of the Cheonan incident and denounced the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang. “North Korea still refuses to accept responsibility for sinking this ship and costing 46 lives,” Mr. Pence said. The U.S. is expected to soon announce fresh sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program.
The North Korean general’s planned visit comes during a rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul, capped by North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games. North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un
sent his sister,
Kim Yo Jong,
to Seoul this month for the first high-level cross-border meeting in years. The North then invited Mr. Moon to a summit in Pyongyang, though the South Korean president hasn’t said if he will accept.
“The visit of Kim Yong Chol is likely to put South Korea in a dilemma,” said
professor of security studies at Kyungnam University. “This will force Seoul to choose between looking like it’s sympathizing with the North, or siding with the U.S. and risking all of its recent political investments in improving ties with the North.”
Ms. Trump is being accorded red-carpet treatment in Seoul. On the menu for the dinner with Mr. Moon were grilled soft tofu with a special marinade, with no shellfish or sashimi, prepared according to kosher regulations to accommodate Ms. Trump, the Blue House noted.
Separately, the North and South agreed to meet Tuesday to discuss Pyongyang’s participation in the Paralympics next month, the Blue House said.