Vice President Mike Pence is in South Korea for the Olympics, but he has been using the games as an opportunity to repeat the foreign policy positions that the U.S. holds on North Korea. That includes words and actions, since Pence has been stating that the U.S. intends to push more sanctions, and he has said nothing to the North Korean contingent in spite of being seated near Kim Yo-Jong – Kim Jong-Un’s sister – at the opening ceremonies.
First, it is important to remember that all of this is happening during the Olympic Games, which have historically been a point in time for nations to set aside their differences to celebrate the athletes who were chosen to compete. It is true that North Korea may be hoping to use these games as a way to restart a conversation with South Korea, but it’s also true that once the Olympic flame is extinguished in PyeongChang any good will generated during the games will likely disappear as well.
Pence appears to be operating under the misconception that South Korea is utterly unfamiliar with the actions and tactics of its northern neighbor, since he’s apparently at least a little concerned about the North Koreans winning points in a propaganda campaign now. If that isn’t foolish enough, he’s also engaged in a little comparison between Kim Jong-Un’s military parades and the one that Trump has requested in the U.S. That means that it will be more difficult for the U.S. to keep saying that the military parades in North Korea are nothing more than childish saber-rattling by a tyrant. In the end, the impression is that Pence is playing the petulant bully – a role description that typically fits Kim Jong-Un – while Kim Yo-Jong is just quietly attending the games.
Perhaps Pence needs to remind himself about a couple adages – “Politics is perception” and “There is a time and place for everything.” Tough talk against a silent foe during the Olympics makes the one doing the talking seem like the real bully, regardless of what reality is. Also, the last place where politicians should be talking politics is the Olympic Games, period, full stop.
Image: YouTube Capture/Al Jazeera