Ivanka Trump, US charmer-in-chief, touches down in South Korea

 Ivanka Trump, US charmer-in-chief, touches down in South Korea

Ivanka Trump (C), advisor to and daughter of US President Donald Trump, arrives at Incheon International Airport in Incheon on February 23, 2018, to attend the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games on February 25. Trump's daughter Ivanka arrived in Seoul on February 23 to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closing ceremony, where a top North Korean general will also be present. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ahn Young-joon (Photo credit should read AHN YOUNG-JOON/AFP/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump, eldest daughter of US President Donald Trump, arrived in South Korea Friday as part of a charm offensive in the closing days of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

While Trump told waiting reporters in Seoul she was looking forward to cheering on US Olympians at the Games, analysts said her chief task will be shoring up diplomatic relations with South Korea.

"Given the universe of dignitaries in this administration that the president could have sent to South Korea, Ivanka Trump is probably the best of the lot in terms of a relatively good reputation, having a fair amount of charisma and star power," said Evan Resnick, coordinator of the US Program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told CNN.

"In purely symbolic terms, she's probably the best face of this administration."

Closing ceremony

Resnick added sending Trump could be an attempt to regain face after US Vice President Mike Pence's "dud" of an appearance at the Opening Ceremony, in which he was overshadowed by the presence of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and did not stand for a joint Korean team as it entered the stadium.

After months of nuclear tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, the US delegation led by Pence sat just meters from Kim Yo Jong.

Media coverage of the 30-year-old Kim's appearance in Pyeongchang was overwhelmingly positive, with South Korean media calling her the "Ivanka Trump" of North Korea.

Seoul has promoted the 2018 Winter Games as the "Peace Olympics," after days of negotiations with representatives from Pyongyang secured North Korea's attendance.

"In symbolic terms the Trump Administration clearly lost round one against the North Koreans and the president hopes maybe Ivanka Trump's star power will lead to a better outcome at the games' end," Resnick said.

Unlike Pence, Trump is unlikely to be upstaged by the North Korean delegation at the Closing Ceremony.

Led by Kim Yong Chol, Vice Chairman of the Party Central Committee, the North Koreans are expected to arrive by train hours before proceedings begin.

Kim is the former chief of North Korea's Reconnaissance Bureau, widely considered to be responsible for a torpedo attack against a South Korean warship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors.

He is also among a list of individuals sanctioned by the US and South Korea. It's unclear whether his trip to the Olympics is in breach of travel-specific sanctions.

Diplomacy by Ivanka could backfire

Officials in Washington said Trump "eagerly accepted" the opportunity to head to South Korea when her father suggested it.

In a statement, she said she looked forward to celebrating US athletes and their achievements.

"Their talent, drive, grit and spirit embodies American excellence, and inspire us all," she said.

It's unclear how many sporting events Trump will attend before the Closing Ceremony on Sunday night. She will dine with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at his residence, the Blue House, on Friday.

Accompanying her throughout the trip will be administration press secretary Sarah Sanders and Allison Hooker, the new director for Korea on the White House's National Security Council.

It's unclear how much Trump's trip is ceremonial versus diplomatic, but Resnick said if it leaned too far towards the latter, it could backfire on her father's administration.

"For Ivanka Trump to unnecessarily plunge herself into a position of starting to make policy on an issue like North Korea would be a bad idea and only increase this administration's image of being unprofessional," he said.

"If this is anything more than just a PR show, it just looks bad."

It emerged this week Pence was supposed to meet North Korean officials during his time in South Korea, but the meeting was called off by Pyongyang at the last minute.

Both South Korean and US officials have been firm in saying there are no official meetings planned between the Trump delegation and North Korea, with Moon's office saying they would not facilitate any interaction.

But Resnick said if anything was scheduled, it would likely not be revealed until after the fact: "It's hard to rule anything out with this gang."


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