Pence right man for Games?

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Game on, North Korea, Pence warns

By Diane Cooke

It would seem that US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the Winter Olympics on Friday could halt a thawing of North/South Korean relations.

For Trump's right hand man is taking the father of the late Otto Warmbier (pictured), an American student who was jailed in North Korea, with him to the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Fred Warmbier will attend as Pence's guest, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. His son died last year upon his return to the United States after having suffered extensive brain damage.

"He & his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea," Pence tweeted Monday before departing Washington.

The Warmbiers also attended the State of the Union as guests of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump.

Pence has also pledged to publicly reprimand Pyongyang over its human rights abuses and weapons programmes.

South Korea, a key US ally, has looked to ease hostilities on the peninsula in an effort to pave the way for talks aimed at denuclearising the North.

However, Mr Pence’s stance hints at a widening gap between Seoul and Washington, which traditionally would maintain one voice when dealing with Pyongyang.

Pence departed Monday for Alaska, Japan, and South Korea, aiming to ensure North Korea doesn't "hijack" the games as it participates on a joint team with the South.

"We'll be telling the truth about North Korea at every stop," he told reporters after touring missile defence facilities that monitor and could respond to a launch by the North. "We'll be ensuring that whatever cooperation that's existing between North and South Korea today on Olympic teams does not cloud the reality of a regime that must continue to be isolated by the world community.

“We’re travelling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime,” he said, calling it “a regime that oppresses its own people, a regime that threatens nations around the world, a regime that continues its headlong rush to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.”

He added: “President Trump has said he always believes in talking, but I haven’t requested any meeting. But we’ll see what happens.”

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