Press reports on emerging Olympic diplomacy have focused on the “charm offensive” of Pyongyang’s First Sister Kim Yo Jong warming the South Korean public while a dour Vice President Pence sat stone-faced through much of the opening ceremony.
Pence was chastised in particular by the fourth estate for failing to rise when the unified South-North Korean team marched together into the Olympic stadium, thus raining on South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s parade. Score: North Korea, 1; U.S., zero.
It, however, never really seemed on the cards for the Vice President to personally greet the North Korean delegation. First, according to a January 23rd Washington Post report, the Vice President had expressed concern that North Korea would “hijack the Olympics in terms of optics and messaging.” Second, it was decided that Pence would bring the late UVA student Otto Warmbier’s father as his personal guest for the opening Olympic events. Third, the North Koreans pulled out of possible talks at the last minute.
Otto Warmbier’s parents, as any other parent would naturally understand, hold the North Korean Kim family accountable for their son’s tragic and unnecessary death. A photo of the Vice President shaking hands with Kim Yo Jong, therefore, would have appeared rather like grasping the bloodied hand of Lady Macbeth.
Nor can one ignore President Trump’s tribute to Otto’s parents during his State of the Union address last month: “You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires truly us all,” Trump said to the Warmbiers as they sat in the audience. “Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with total American resolve.” Vice President Pence was doing no more than carrying out the policy publicly laid out by his boss.
Otto’s father, Fred Warmbier, made his views on Pyongyang’s Olympic participation perfectly clear in an interview with NBC. “We have to put this in context in the spirit of the Olympics and why we’re here,” Fred Warmbier told NBC’s Lester Holt. “And so when you put it that way they’re not really participating in the Olympics.”
Yet to enter the Pyeongchang Olympic stage is First Daughter Ivanka Trump
He continued: “Their athletes are not exchanging ideas with other athletes in the Olympic Village or really participating, so that’s a political statement.”
Still few disputed that Kim Yo Jong stole the show at the Olympic Opening Ceremony as the first North Korean Kim family member to cross the DMZ since the Korean War. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post even carried a headline on February 9th declaring “Kim Jong Un’s Baby Sister: the Ivanka Trump of North Korea.”
The paper went on to note that “Kim Yo-jong first entered the public eye during one of North Korea’s darkest moments. Now she is back on stage for one of its brightest – helming Pyongyang’s Olympic charm offensive.”
But yet to enter the Pyeongchang Olympic stage is First Daughter Ivanka Trump, who will lead the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony on February 25. Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are known for interjecting themselves in major diplomatic initiatives in the Trump administration.
It was Ivanka, according to a July 8 Washington Post report, who took her father’s seat at a G-20 summit in Hamburg last year between the British prime minister and Chinese president when Trump left to meet with the Indonesian leader. This was even though, as former NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns was quoted as stating in his experience at summits, “the secretary of state would take the president’s place at the table.”
What could possibly be wrong with a purely “peace” gesture?
Ivanka and Jared are “special advisor” and “senior advisor” to the president, respectively, with not always clearly defined portfolios. Jared Kushner and Ivanka were earlier involved in efforts to thaw relations with China after a bruising “China, China, China, jobs, job, jobs!” presidential campaign and a transition phone call with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Jared reportedly called on his foreign policy mentor Henry Kissinger to assist in making arrangements for a Sino-American Mar-a-Lago summit via the Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai.
And when Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, famed former PLA singer Peng Liyuan, visited Mar-a-Lago in April of 2017, Ivanka prepared a special surprise. She had her then five-year-old daughter Arabella, trained in Mandarin by a Chinese nanny, sing the Chinese folk song “Molihua” (Jasmine Flower), reportedly one of Madam Peng’s favorites, for the Chinese First Couple during the summit.
Jared Kushner also reportedly set up the tentative meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto early in the new administration. This, however, was aborted after some anti-Mexican presidential tweets. Kushner also, according to a December Politico report, “privately encouraged President Donald Trump’s announcement Wednesday that ‘Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.’”
Ivanka Trump’s leading the delegation to the Winter Olympics is not the first time she has done something like this. In November she led a U.S. delegation to Bangalore, India to promote women’s entrepreneurship at the invitation of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi had astutely calculated during a Washington visit last June that the path to the father lies through the daughter.
Accepting the Prime Minister’s invite, Ivanka had tweeted, “Thank you, Prime Minister Modi, for inviting me to lead the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this fall.” India reportedly rolled out the red carpet for Ivanka.
If Jared can do the Middle East, why can’t Ivanka move things forward on the Korean peninsula?
President Moon of South Korea would be wise to copy a page from Modi’s playbook. A little “moonshine” charm could go a long way in making the closing ceremony at Pyeongchang even more of a headline grabber than the opening.
Ivanka is fully aware that her father put her husband Jared in charge of finding a political solution in the intractable Middle East peace process. The current North Korean nuclear crisis may be the one global issue that is even more complex than the Middle East.
If Jared can do the Middle East, why can’t Ivanka move things forward on the Korean peninsula? How about having a closing ceremony hug with a North Korean athlete or cheerleader? And what could possibly be wrong with a purely “peace” gesture? Dad would likely not object as it would put the Trump brand front and center in the global news cycle out of the Winter Olympics.
Forget Kim Yo Jong, here comes Ivanka!
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Flickr user Michael Vadon
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 1145 words of this article.