As Ivanka Trump prepares to travel with a presidential delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea this week, White House officials are making clear that the senior aide to the president does not plan to focus any of her attention on North Korea.
Instead, Trump plans to cheer on American athletes, attend the Closing Ceremonies, congratulate the host nation on a successful Olympics and reaffirm the alliance between the United States and South Korea, a team of senior officials said during a briefing call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon that was arranged on the condition that the officials not be identified.
Trump was involved with the effort to bring the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles, so one of the officials said she is especially interested in seeing how the Winter Games were executed in PyeongChang. And one of the officials also said Trump is a “winter sports enthusiast.”
The officials said Trump does not plan to meet with North Korean defectors, as had been reported, and does not plan to meet with any North Koreans during her visit. When Vice President Pence traveled to South Korea for the Opening Ceremonies earlier this month, officials said, his top mission was to counter propaganda from North Korea and remind the world that despite North Korea's enthusiastic participation in the Olympics, the world should not forget the regime's brutal and cruel treatment of its people and the threat of its nuclear weapons program. While that propaganda is still concerning to the White House, one official said, Trump does not plan to address it during her visit.
Trump plans to leave Washington on Thursday morning and will fly commercial to South Korea. She is scheduled to have dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Blue House in Seoul on Friday night. She then will spend Saturday and Sunday at the Olympics, watching U.S. athletes compete. The officials would not say which events Trump plans to watch.
“I am honored to lead the U.S. delegation to the closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics,” Trump said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “We look forward to congratulating Team USA and celebrating all that our athletes have achieved. Their talent, drive, grit and spirit embodies American excellence, and inspire us all.”
Trump will lead a presidential delegation that will include: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism; Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who is the commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea; Marc E. Knapper of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul; and Shauna Rohbock, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard and a former Olympian who is coaching a bobsled team.
When asked why Sanders was joining the delegation, an official noted that she is a trusted member of the president's senior administration — plus, “as a female,” the official said Sanders is looking forward to cheering on female athletes competing in the Olympics.