North Korea and White House Officials Didn’t Meet at Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony

The White House’s lead on Korea did not meet with her North Korean counterparts during the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

Allison Hooker, who focuses on Korean affairs for the National Security Council, was in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as part of the United States' delegation for the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. She had no contact with the North Korean delegation, according to South Korean wire service Yonhap News Agency. The U.S. delegation also included President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders announced before the closing ceremonies that there were no scheduled meetings between the U.S. and North Korea. Speculation about the possibility of a meeting spiked when Choe Kang Il arrived with the North Korean delegation, according to The Washington Post. Choe is a senior member of North Korea's foreign ministry specializing in U.S. affairs and had met with U.S. representatives in the past. The White House did not publicly explain why no meetings occurred. 

North Korea’s participation in the games was seen as a diplomatic victory for South Korea. Relations between the U.S. and North Korea, however, still remain icy.

Vice President Mike Pence was part of the U.S. delegation for the opening ceremony of the games and didn’t meet with North Korea either; the country canceled a secret meeting with him at the last minute. In the lead-up to the games, the Vice President had been vocal about North Korea’s history of human right violations. Pence highlighted the North’s abuses by bringing as his guest Fred Warmbier, the father of a U.S. student who was imprisoned in North Korea. Last year his son, Otto Warmbier, was returned to the U.S. in a coma to his home state of Ohio, where he subsequently died.

GettyImages-924017234 Ivanka Trump attends the Closing Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. Maddie Meyer/GETTY

Otto Warmbier’s death, coupled with repeated ballistic missile launches and a nuclear weapon test last year, has led to increased tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Trump engaged in a war of words with North Korea that famously included the threat of “fire and fury like the world have never seen,” in August.

North Korea’s envoy to the games, General Kim Yong Chol met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Sunday and told him North Korea was open to talks with the U.S.

“There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearize. It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly,” said Moon in a statement, according to Reuters.

The White House responded in their own statement Sunday saying it “will see” if this is the first step towards a denuclearization in North Korea. The U.S. does not currently have an ambassador to South Korea. 

The White House did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.

GettyImages-924024674 Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, watches the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Patrick Semansky/GETTY