Vice President Mike Pence sat in close proximity to Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Games on Friday.
Pence, who has been vocal in his criticism of North Korea in the run-up to the Games, sat just feet away. Asked by CNN if there was any concern by Pence about Kim’s sister sitting behind him, an aide to the vice president said, “not in the slightest.”
“He participated in a trilateral with (South Korean President Moon Jae-in) and (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) prior in a show of solidarity and then was thrilled to cheer on Team USA at the opening ceremony.”
The aide noted that Pence “and our team were aware she’d be in attendance. A primary purpose of the trip was to show a united front with our allies in Japan and South Korea in support of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. The VP sat with Moon and Abe in the box after days of meetings with both leaders.”
Kim Yo Jong is the first member of the North’s ruling dynasty to visit the south since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
The presence of Kim, who was promoted to the country’s Politburo, the senior body of North Korea’s communist party, as an alternate member last year, represents a hugely significant move in the thawing of relations between the North and South. Such a high-level meeting would have been unimaginable even a few months ago, but Moon sees the Winter Olympics as a chance to make diplomatic inroads with the North.