Vice President Mike Pence’s Olympic visit to Pyeongchang, South Korea, began Friday with a close call with the North Korean officials, whom the vice president appeared to avoid at a diplomatic reception before the Opening Ceremonies.
Pence arrived Friday in Pyeongchang, the mountain town hosting the Winter Games, ahead of the Opening Ceremonies and proceeded to a reception where he posed for a photograph with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The pool of U.S. reporters traveling with the president were ushered out of the reception after the photo-op, but a spokesperson for the vice president said Pence, whose name was announced when he entered the reception, greeted several tables but “did not come across” the North Korean delegation.
Pence earlier this week didn’t rule out a meeting with North Korean officials, saying that he hadn’t requested a meeting but “we’ll see what happens.”
At the Opening Ceremonies, which began early Friday morning in the U.S., Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin noted on Twitter that Pence was seated one row in front of members of the North Korean delegation, which included Kim Yo Jong, the sister of dictator Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state and the president of the Presidium of the repressive regime’s parliament.
Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. have heightened over the last year as Pyongyang has repeatedly tested ballistic missiles, firing one that traveled over Japan, and conducting its most powerful nuclear test to date. President Donald Trump has pledged to lead a global campaign to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, pointedly refusing to take military action against the dynastic communist nation off the table.
Last summer, he threatened to destroy North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” should the Kim regime refuse to stop its provocations.