HEADLINE Ivanka visits South Korea for Games


Ivanka visits South Korea for Games

Global Times

03:18, February 24, 2018

Ivanka Trump (left), daughter of US President Donald Trump, meets South Korean President Moon Jae-inon Friday during her stay in South Korea for the Winter Olympic Games. Photo: VCG

Ivanka Trump's arrival in South Korea launched a fresh round of Olympic charm diplomacy competition between the US and North Korea, Chinese experts said on Friday, with Seoul fumbling to please both sides.

The "first daughter," also a senior White House advisor, met South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday evening. As a "winter sports enthusiast," Ivanka will watch Olympic competition this weekend and attend the closing ceremony on Sunday, Reuters reported. 

After arriving at Incheon International Airport west of Seoul, Ivanka said she came to South Korea to reaffirm a "strong and enduring commitment" to the people of US ally South Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported. 

By sending a figure with significant influence within US President Donald Trump's administration, Washington aims to cement the US-South Korea alliance and ensure that alliance is not undermined by improving inter-Korean relations, Li Haidong, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times Friday.

Ivanka enjoys influence that professional diplomats cannot achieve on major diplomatic occasions and her trip is also expected to ensure disputes do not escalate into obstacles for future communication between her father and his counterpart, Li said. 

During the meeting, Moon reiterated the need to maintain the mood of dialogue and reconciliation between his country and North Korea while Ivanka Trump stressed the need to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea, Yonhap reported. 

"We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country," US President Trump tweeted Friday night.

'Princess diplomacy'

Ivanka's visit to South Korea comes days after Kim Yo-jong, younger sister of North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un, wrapped up her trip to the Winter Olympic Games.

The purpose of Ivanka's trip is to cheer on American athletes, reaffirm the US-South Korea alliance and celebrate the successful Games, Reuters reported, citing an anonymous US official.

Kim's trip to South Korea helped improve inter-Korean relations and changed some South Koreans' perceptions of the North, Li said. Ivanka's trip will achieve similar results, he believed. 

"Ivanka's visit is also expected to balance Kim's effects, as her personal charm undoubtedly outweighs Kim's," Li said.

The US and North Korea are deploying "princess diplomacy" to project their country's image, fix and improve ties with South Korea during the Winter Olympic Games, Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

"Both can speak directly to their country's leaders and can speak on their behalf on certain occasions," he said. 

With their special positions, their words and deeds could also convey the latest message from their country's leaders, which shows the flexibility of diplomacy, Lü explained.

'Flash in the pan' worries

South Korea has fruitful diplomatic achievements during the ongoing Winter Games through its high-level interactions with the US and North Korea, said Lü. Seoul had exhibited diplomatic independence amid disputes with the US on North Korea policy, he said.

South Korea is unlikely to stray too far from the US, said Lü. As the nuclear issue and joint military drills with the US were not touched upon during interactions, the diplomatic harvest "might be a flash in the pan," he said.

There are no plans for Ivanka to get involved in substantive discussions about the dispute over North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests, Reuters reported. 

A North Korean delegation will also attend the closing ceremony, but the South Korean government said it was unlikely Ivanka Trump would meet North Koreans or defectors from North Korea, the New York Times reported.

The US is due to announce its largest package of sanctions against North Korea to pressure it into giving up nuclear and missile programs, Reuters reported Friday.

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