SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The Latest on Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Asia (all times local):
Welcoming Vice President Mike Pence to the Blue House, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is highlighting the visit of senior North Korean officials to the Winter Olympic games, calling them “Olympic Games of peace.”
Moon adds his hopes that it becomes “a venue that leads to dialogue for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
In brief remarks to reporters Thursday, Pence is holding back criticism of Moon’s more conciliatory approach toward the North. He is congratulating South Korea on hosting the games and pledges continued U.S. support to address the North’s nuclear threat.
Says Pence: “Our resolve to stand with you is unshakable.”
Vice President Mike Pence is calling a news report alleging he was upset over criticism from an openly gay Olympian “fake news.”
Pence tweeted to Olympian Adam Rippon: “I want you to know we are FOR YOU. Don’t let fake news distract you. I am proud of you and ALL OF OUR GREAT athletes and my only hope for you and all of #TeamUSA is to bring home the gold.”
A USA Today report claimed Pence was troubled by reports that Rippon had criticized him for supporting so-called gay conversion therapy – and that the vice president’s office was rebuffed in trying to set up a meeting between Pence and Rippon to meet at the Olympic Games. White House officials denied that Pence’s team offered such an invitation.
Aides to Pence also denied the vice president ever supported the practice, which has been rejected by medical and psychological professional organizations.
Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in South Korea, looking to push the U.S. ally to adopt a more hawkish stance toward North Korea ahead of the Winter Olympics.
Pence is set to meet with President Moon Jae-in to advocate a clear-eyed approach toward his bellicose, nuclear-armed neighbor. Athletes from both Koreas will compete as one team in the games opening Friday that senior officials from the North will attend.
Moon has looked to the game as an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic opening with the North – a move Pence will seek to caution against.
Pence is leading the U.S. delegation to the Pyeongchang Games’ opening ceremonies and will also participate in symbolic events meant to shine a spotlight on North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuses.