US Vice President Mike Pence said he actively chose to ignore North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister at the Opening Ceremony for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Pence, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in were all seated mere feet away from Kim Yo Jong, a senior member of the North’s high-level delegation and the head of the country’s propaganda department, at the Opening Ceremony for the Games last week.
“I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any countenance or attention in that form to someone who’s not merely the sister of the dictator but is the leader of the propaganda effort,” Pence told Axios’ Mike Allen.
Kim Yo Jong was the first member of her family to travel to South Korea since Korean War hostilities ceased in 1953.
Pence also said Pyongyang’s alleged human rights violations factored into his decision to ignore Kim Yo Jong, citing the country’s political prisons – where it’s estimated about 100,000 people are incarcerated – the execution of Jang Song Thaek, Kim Jong Un’s uncle, and the killing of the leader’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam.
Kim Jong Nam died mere minutes after being exposed to a lethal nerve agent, VX, at an airport in Malaysia last year. North Korean diplomats denied the country had any involvement in the killing.
“This is evil the likes of which we have witnessed rarely in our time around the world, and I wanted to send by my silence a very clear message, that the people of the United States of America know who we’re dealing with and that we are going to continue to stand firmly and stand strong with resolve and with our allies until the regime in North Korea ceases to threaten our country and our allies with nuclear (weapons) and ballistic missiles,” Axios quoted Pence as saying.
“We will continue to hold them to account on their appalling record of abuse of human rights of their own people,” said Pence.
The Vice President also reiterated the Trump administration’s policy toward Pyongyang’s weapons program and again teased the impending announcement of new sanctions against the Kim regime, which he previously said would be the “toughest ever.”
“The fixed policy of the United States of America is that we are going to continue with all options on the table to bring intensifying economic and diplomatic pressure to bear until North Korea, once and for all, completely and verifiably abandons its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program,” said Pence.
“We’re open to communicating our policy to the regime in North Korea, but what North Korea needs to understand … nothing will change until the day comes that North Korea permanently abandons its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and ceases to threaten the United States of America and our allies in the region,” he said.