Mike Pence didn't snub North Koreans deliberately, officials say
Feb 12, 2018, 00:32
North Korea has sent some of the highest level officials ever to the south for these games, the result of diplomacy by Seoul that led to an agreement between the two countries - still formally at war - to participate together in the Winter Games.
Cheerleaders from North Korea let rip in support for Choe Un Song but he was eliminated in the 1,500m heats and the 25-year-old failed to qualify for the semi-finals.
Vice President Mike Pence did not deliberately snub North Koreans at an Olympic reception, according to United States officials who pushed back on South Korean reports that Pence deliberately came late to a VIP gathering Friday evening and then snubbed officials from Pyongyang.
Seen by some as her brother's answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump, Kim, 30, is not only a powerful member of Kim Jong Un's kitchen cabinet but also a foil to the perception of North Korea as antiquated and militaristic.
The officials said it was fair to say both Pence and the North Koreans rebuffed South Korean President Moon Jae-in's efforts to facilitate a meeting between North Korea and the US.
Prior to the opening ceremony on Friday night, Pence arrived late to a dinner reception between the two Koreas and greeted everyone at a main table except for Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state, Reuters reports. Almost 200 female members of the North Korean cheerleading regime - a handpicked group created to be an appealing propaganda arm of the ruling party - chanted and sang (and did the wave on several occasions) while other fans clapped along in between Switzerland's offensive barrages. It happened during a historic meeting between North and South Korean officials at Seoul's presidential palace.
Yong-nam is the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea. "I was standing and I think the whole team felt very much welcome and this welcome does not depend on who stands and who does not stand", Bach said.
Moon joined Kim Yo Jong and other North Korean supporters Saturday in cheering for the team against Switzerland.
A senior White House official said Pence was not trying to avoid the delegation from North Korea but rather ignore them, according to the AP. Switzerland defeated Korea 8-0.
North and South Koreans marching together under a unified peninsula flag gave Thomas Bach goosebumps, the International Olympic Committee president told Reuters on Saturday. "She is the person he trusts more than anyone else in the regime", said Ken Gause, North Korean leadership expert.
But there seems to be a diplomatic thawing between North and South Korea. He also said the ceremonies were not the appropriate venue for serious talks.
"I felt a little odd to see North Koreans so close", he said.
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Kim, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, is leading North Korea's delegation to the Olympics. The North's political delegation was set to leave Sunday. "The vice present cheered for the team he's rooting for".
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