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08 February 2018, 12:16 | Katrina Lee
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan Thomson Reuters
Despite an optimistic tone by South Korea's Blue House, which noted North Korea's resolve to improve relations on the peninsula, White House officials are not convinced.
Members of the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation women's hockey team skate during a training session for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Kwandong Hockey Centre.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told his USA counterpart Donald Trump in a phone call on Friday that the momentum of improved North-South relations would continue and that Pence's visit would be an "important prelude for that", according to the Blue House.
Seoul had to waive sanctions in place since 2010 on North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel to allow the ship to enter this time. According to White House officials, who spoke to Mail Online on the condition of anonymity, Pence will discuss the topic of North Korea - primarily focusing on its human rights abuses and aggressive nuclear programs conducted by its leader Kim Jong Un - with Asian countries.
The vice president also had some stern words to share for North Korea, but did not rule out a meeting with officials while visiting Pyeongchang.
"In general we welcome such atmosphere of the dialogue but at the same time our position is that we should be more realistic", Takehiro Shimada, minister for Communications and Cultural Affairs of the Japanese Embassy in the USA, said in an interview.
Pence says he hasn't requested any meeting "but we'll see what happens". Beside the vice president in the stands will be the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died a year ago after being jailed in North Korea - a stark reminder of the cruelty undergirding Kim Jong Un's regime, an administration official said.
North Korea will send its nominal head of state and other senior officials to South Korea this week, Seoul officials said Sunday, as the rivals push through with rare rapprochement steps ahead of this month's Winter Olympics in the South.
He'll bring to the games the father of Otto Warmbier, the US student who died in 2017 shortly after he was released from North Korean detention.
Prior to CNN's report on Ivanka leading the United States delegation to PyeongChang, it had been reported that the group includes two top military commanders, and Fred Warmbier, whose son Otto died a year ago after being freed from North Korean captivity.
Trump has belittled the North Korean leader as "little rocket man" and on Twitter boasted that his "nuclear button" is larger than Kim's. The plan centers around rallying the worldwide community to further isolate North Korea both diplomatically and economically.
Observers believe his visit to the South indicates the North is aiming to prove the legitimacy of its government to the world at the Olympic arena.
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