Vice President Mike Pence is in Pyeongchang, South Korea to attend the Winter Olympics on behalf of the American government. The visit to the Korean peninsula comes amidst heightened tensions between the Trump administration and North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un.
Since taking office, Donald Trump has exacerbated the already precarious relationship between the United States and the nuclear-armed Kim regime by tweeting out insults and threatening war. Now it appears he’s sent his lackey Pence to ratchet up hostilities.
This year, the North Korean and South Korean Olympic teams are competing together as one joint Korean team. It’s a surprising show of unity between two nations who have been enemies since the 1950’s war ripped the country apart along the 38th parallel.
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While there is no clear roadmap for how to achieve safety and peace between the Koreas — previous American administrations have struggled to come up with a successful strategy for dealing with the region — this moment appears to be a rare opportunity to de-escalate.
At the very least, the two Koreas seem open to a dialogue with each other. It’s something the United States should encourage, exploring the possibilities. Instead, Mike Pence seems to be working to derail it.
The Associated Press reports that Pence refused to interact with Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo Jong despite the fact that the two were seated right near each other at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Pence also refused to stand and applaud for the Korean team when it entered and chose instead to clap solely for the American team. While seemingly a small thing, a gesture of support for the joint Korean team, a landmark alliance in the region’s antagonistic history, would have been a sign of good faith and a desire for better relations between North and South.
Furthermore, Pence did not only slight the North, but South Korea, one of our closest allies and the Olympics’ — and Pence’s — host. It is naive to think that such a deliberately rude and insulting move will go either unnoticed or forgotten in a country that places a premium on showing respect.
The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield was at the event and reports that it appeared as if Pence and his wife were the only two people in the VIP box who refused to stand for the Korean team.
The unified Korean team just entered the Olympic stadium. From where I was sitting, it looked everyone in the VIP box stood – except VP Mike Pence and Karen Pence (corrects previous tweet. It is not clear if Fred Warmbier is in the VIP box) pic.twitter.com/R1YSS4uRmx
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 9, 2018
Pence’s tacky move echoes the time he flew to an NFL game just to storm out when some of the players kneeled during the national anthem in protest of police brutality towards people of color. Only this time, as Crooked Media’s Editor-in-Chief points out, the hypocrisy is staggering:
So, what he’s saying–hear me out–is that not standing up during a ceremonial event is one way to protest something unrelated to the event… https://t.co/foc4fTX9Bh
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) February 10, 2018
Once again, the Vice President has stooped to cheap theatrics to send a political message.