North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has scored a media victory over the Trump administration by sending his sister, Kim Yo-jong, to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. As reported by the New York Times, the North Korean leader’s sister was immediately dubbed “North Korea’s Ivanka Trump” by the world’s media, who speculated that Kim Yo-jong has the same sort of influence in North Korea as Ivanka has over her father, President Donald Trump.
Of course, sending Kim Yo-jong to the Olympics wasn’t Kim Jong-un’s only media victory, he also caused shock waves by allowing North Korean athletes to join a unified Korean team at the games. The surprises didn’t end there, Kim Yo-jong also extended a personal invitation for South Korea’s President Moon to visit North Korea. Before the Winter Olympics, such an invitation was unthinkable, after all the two nations are still technically at war.
As reported by CNN, Kim Yo-jong outflanked the Trump administration when she entered “a warm message in South Korea’s presidential guestbook,” offering hope that two Korea’s would move towards a peaceful reunification.
“I hope Pyongyang and Seoul get closer in our people’s hearts and move forward the future of prosperous unification.”
The message from Kim Jong-un’s regime stood in stark contrast to that delivered by Donald Trump’s Olympic envoy, Vice President Mike Pence. Where the North Korean message signaled the possibility of a resolution to the crisis between Kim Jong-un and the rest of the world, Mike Pence repeated President Trump’s message that the U.S. will continue to ratchet up “maximum sanctions” until North Korea dismantles its nuclear arsenal.
There are, however, some signs that the Trump administration has listened to the message coming out of North Korea, and it may signal the first steps to resolving tensions between the U.S. and Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Vice President Mike Pence Signals A New Strategy Towards North Korea
As anyone who has followed Donald Trump’s rhetoric towards North Korea will be aware, the U.S. president has been unstinting in his condemnation of Kim Jong-un. Trump has branded the North Korean leader as the “little rocket man,” used a speech at the United Nations to threaten to “totally destroy” the country, and even boasted that he has a “bigger nuclear red button” than Kim Jong-un. President Trump has repeatedly called negotiations with North Korea “a waste of time,” but it seems that there are signs that his position may be softening.
According to Business Insider, Vice President Pence has told the Washington Post that “the U.S. would participate in direct talks with North Korea’s leadership without preconditions.” If Pence has Donald Trump’s support for that claim, it marks a major change in U.S. policy towards the North Korean regime.
Pence called the new strategy “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.” Of course, Trump’s goal remains the same, the end of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, but it is an indication that the U.S. position has shifted away from demanding an end to Kim Jong-un’s nuclear program before any talks can take place.
Trump has previously indicated that China and Russia hold the key to the resolution of the North Korean crisis, but both of those nations favor a “freeze for freeze” deal, something the Trump administration has rejected. Vice President Pence’s comments may indicate that President Trump has come to realize that bringing Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table may be the only way to resolve the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea without military action.
If that proves to be the case, Kim Jong-un’s use of “North Korea’s Ivanka Trump” to launch a Winter Olympic charm offensive may just prove to be a masterstroke by the North Korean dictator.