Ivanka Trump arrives in S. Korea for Games, diplomacy

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Seoul, Feb 23 (IANS) US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump on Friday arrived in South Korea to reaffirm the “strong and enduring commitment” to the people of the US’s ally, two weeks after the North Korean leader sent his sister here on a mission seen as an attempt to undermine Seouls alliance with Washington.

Ivanka Trump, who holds the title of senior White House adviser, plans to have dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House in the capital.

She will then lead an American delegation to Pyeongchang, east of Seoul, where the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics will be held on Sunday.

“It is a great honour to be here in South Korea with the US delegation. We are very excited to attend the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to cheer for Team USA and to reaffirm our strong and enduring commitment with the people of the Republic of Korea,” she said, according to Yonhap news agency.

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“So thank you for the kind welcome,” she said.

Her South Korean trip coincided with a planned visit by a North Korean delegation that will attend the closing ceremony. The delegation will be headed by Kim Yong-chol, Vice Chairman of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

Their overlapping schedule is sparking speculation that there could be a possibility of some kind of contact between the US and North Korean officials on the sidelines of the sporting event, though government officials from both sides say the chances were “slim”.

Her arrival came two weeks after the surprise visit by Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, created something of a sensation in South Korea, overshadowing Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the Olympics at the same time.

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Kim Yo-jong met Moon and delivered her brother’s “surprise” invitation to visit the North for a summit meeting.

Despite South Korean expectations that Kim Yo-jong and Pence would use the Games as an opportunity for their own diplomacy, the two ignored each other.

South Korean officials arranged a later meeting between the two, US officials said, but the North Koreans pulled out at the last minute.

Attention is now focusing on if and when the US and North Korea will seek direct bilateral contact of any kind to discuss denuclearisation.

The US has hinted that it is now up to the North to initiate talks. The North has adamantly said it is unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Ivanka Trump’s delegation includes White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Commander of US Forces Korea General Vincent Brooks, and Senator James Risch, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism.

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–IANS

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