Ivanka Trump told South Korea's president yesterday that she will use her visit to the Winter Olympics to advocate maximum pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear programme.
The daughter of US President Donald Trump is leading the US delegation at this weekend's closing ceremony for the Pyeongchang Games.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, however, highlighted how the Olympics have served as a vehicle for dialogue between the two Koreas, and said the US and South Korea should make use of the current mood of rapprochement between the Koreas in seeking denuclearisation.
At a closed-door meeting before a banquet at the presidential compound, Moon told Trump that talks on denuclearisation and the inter-Korean dialogue must move forward side by side, Moon's press secretary, Yoon Young-chan, told reporters. Trump responded by pushing for joint efforts by the US and South Korea to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, Yoon said.
The meeting delayed the banquet's start by about half an hour.
The differences in how the US and South Korea hope to achieve denuclearisation were also apparent during the banquet. In her remarks, Trump said she was in South Korea to celebrate the Olympics and to reaffirm the US commitment to a "maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearised."
The Trump administration yesterday announced sanctions on more than 50 vessels, shipping companies and trade businesses to turn up the pressure on North Korea. US officials said that Trump had discussed the action with Moon ahead of the announcement in Washington.
A high-level North Korean delegation will also attend Sunday's Olympic closing ceremony, but the South Korean government said it's unlikely that Ivanka Trump will meet the North Koreans. Vice President Mike Pence, who attended the Olympics' opening ceremony, sat awkwardly in a VIP box with the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un behind him. The two had no apparent contact.
Moon hopes to make the Olympics an avenue for peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.
"North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympic Games has served as an opportunity for us to engage in active discussions between the two Koreas and this has led to lowering of tensions on the peninsula and an improvement in inter-Korean relations," Moon said.
Moon met Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state, a day after the opening ceremony and urged North Korea to do more to engage in a dialogue with the United States.
While the games appear to have paved the way for possible rapprochement between the Koreas, US and North Korean officials have yet to make direct contact. Earlier this week, the US government said Pence had been set to meet North Korean officials during his visit to South Korea, but that the North Korean side canceled at the last minute.
For now, there are no signs that Ivanka Trump will meet Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, who is to attend the closing ceremony.
The White House has emphasised that the purpose of her visit is to celebrate the achievements of the athletes, noting that she is a winter sports enthusiast herself. She is expected to attend the games on Saturday before Sunday's closing ceremony.