As Ivanka Arrives in S. Korea, One Big Question Lingers

Will she meet anyone from the North?
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2018 8:18 AM CST
As Ivanka Arrives in S. Korea, One Big Question Lingers
Flanked by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, left, Ivanka Trump arrives at the Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Friday.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. Pool)

Ivanka Trump received a red-carpet welcome as she arrived in South Korea on Friday for a trip with two main official components: She dines with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday evening and will attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics Sunday to cheer on US athletes. Coverage, however, is focusing on whether the first daughter might be playing a larger diplomatic role on behalf of the US. Details:

  • The comparison: The North seemed to score a PR coup when Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's Kim Jong Un, arrived for the opening ceremony, and the comparisons to Ivanka's trip are "inevitable," per CNN. "In purely symbolic terms, she's probably the best face of this administration," says Evan Resnick of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
  • Pence counter: VP Mike Pence also appeared at the opening ceremony, where he ignored Kim's sister in public and generally projected a hard-line image to the North, which may have contributed to Pyongyang's decision to cancel a meeting with him. That didn't please South Korea, and Ivanka's trip could ease tensions overall, reports the New York Times. "It's nice if you can put a velvet glove over the iron fist," says Evan Medeiros, former Asia adviser to President Obama.

  • The big question: Will Ivanka meet anyone from North Korea's delegation? That "remains to be seen" as no such meeting is on the official agenda, per USA Today. But the White House has not ruled out the possibility, and administration officials say she is prepared to discuss her father's "maximum pressure" policy if such an encounter occurs.
  • Comparison, take II: “It’s certainly possible that Ivanka will try to do for the United States what Kim Yo Jong did for North Korea," Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat, tells the Guardian. "Ivanka and Kim Yo Jong both derive their power and access from their family ties, and are skilled at getting positive media attention while representing leaders who provoke a lot of controversy.”
  • Line of communication: At Vanity Fair, Emily Jane Fox assesses Ivanka's trip and jet-setting ways in general, noting that the presidential daughter is "savvy to the ways in which her advisory role dovetails with her eponymous lifestyle brand." But in terms diplomacy, her main attribute is that world leaders know she is a "secure line" to the president.
  • Proud father: "My daughter, Ivanka, just arrived in South Korea," Trump tweeted Friday. "We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country."
  • Biggest sanctions yet? All this is playing out as the US readies what a senior White House official calls "the largest package of new sanctions against the North Korean regime" to date, per Reuters. The announcement could come during Ivanka's three-day trip.
  • No defectors: Ivanka had wanted to meet with female defectors from the North on her visit, but that won't happen, reports the Chosunilbo.
(More Ivanka Trump stories.)

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