The US Vice President is taking the father of late former North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics to remind the world of the regime's total disregard for human rights.
As he prepares to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics alongside Fred Warmbier, US Vice President Mike Pence has announced plans to enforce the toughest sanctions yet on the rogue regime, and ensure it does not hijack the Pyeonchang Games.
Speaking during his three-day visit to Japan on Wednesday, Pence declared the US, in partnership with Tokyo, would “intensify its maximum pressure campaign” on the North.
“I’m announcing today that the United States will soon unveil the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever,” he said.
While Pence would not disclose the details of the sanctions, he said they would be imposed before the completion of the Games.
“All options are on the table and the US has deployed some of our most advanced military assets to Japan and the wider region to protect our homeland and our allies and we will continue to,” he added.
This was reinforced by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who urged other nations not to be “captivated by the charm offensive of North Korea”.
[Don’t be] captivated by the charm offensive of North Korea.
“I appreciate the North-South talks toward the success of the Pyeongchang Olympics. But on the other hand, we must squarely face the fact that North Korea continues to pursue nuclear and missile programmes,” he said.
“A major military parade is expected in Pyongyang tomorrow. Provocative actions are continuing.”
Kim Jong-un won’t hijack the Olympics
Pence hasn’t ruled out meeting with the North Korean delegation in Pyeongchang but he also isn’t going out of his way to make it happen, either.
He is all too wary of the North’s agenda, pointing out that the two Koreas have united under one flag before, only to see “North Korea continue its pursuit of threats and provocation”.
Of course, the North has agreed to march under the Korea peninsula ‘united’ flag at the opening ceremony, and a joint Korea women’s ice hockey team has been formed and will compete for gold.
“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games,” he said.
“We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region.”
It came as the communist state on Wednesday announced it was sending Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, as a chief member of the delegation party.
Believed to be the first member of the ruling Kim family to visit South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, it is widely seen as a political stunt.
“One of the positives of her visit is that she is someone able to deliver a direct message on behalf of Kim Jong-un”, said Shin Beom-chul, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul.
“This raises worries that North Korea likely intends to use this Olympics as a propaganda tool rather than a possible opening to meaningful dialogue with South Korea.”
The US aims to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record by taking Fred Warmbier as a special guest.
A Trump administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said Warmbier’s presence would counter North Korean propaganda.
The opening ceremony begins at 8pm, local time, on Friday.