February 19, 2018 13:29
The government is preparing a VIP welcome for U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, who comes to Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25. The government apparently wants to soften her up so Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae-in.
One key ruling-party lawmaker said, "You can say that Ivanka Trump holds the key to convincing the U.S. government. We will provide all the support we can in terms of diplomatic protocol."
Trump runs the White House like a private fiefdom and has levered both Ivanka and her husband Jarred Kushner into ill-defined foreign-policy roles.
Technically, Seoul has no diplomatic obligation to roll out the red carpet for the child of a U.S. leader, and even the head of a U.S. presidential delegation does not receive the treatment given to a head of state.
But a government official here said, "We are considering exceptional measures by having a high-ranking official greet Ivanka and accompany her during her visit." The Cheong Wa Dae security team rather than the police handle her safety during her visit.
Moon himself seems minded to greet her cap-in-hand. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "Ivanka enjoys sports and especially skiing, so we are discussing having the president travel to Pyeongchang with her to watch a skiing competition."
Ivanka Trump is the mother of two sons and a daughter, whom the government wants to lavish with presents.
The government has to calibrate the red-carpet treatment so it meets at least the welcome given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong, who visited the opening ceremony. The first daughter has repeatedly been treated as a virtual head of state during visits to other countries, not least to Germany, where she shared a stage with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"Since President Trump cannot make it to Pyeongchang, Ivanka is his proxy and envoy," a ruling-party official said. "It's important to win her support to realize the inter-Korean summit."
First lady Kim Jung-sook may also show Ivanka around, on the assumption that she is to all intents and purposes the first lady of the U.S. rather than Trump's reluctant wife Melania.
A government official on Sunday said Kim should be able to play the role of ice breaker. Moon and Kim are expected to host either a dinner or lunch for Ivanka and watch a sports match with her before attending the closing ceremony.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will play a key role in the diplomatic protocol. Ivanka ostensibly shares an interest in women's rights with Kang, who has served at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"Kang did not have a set role during the visit by the North Korean delegation, but she is expected to play a wide range of roles during Ivanka's visit," a government source said.
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