January 10, 2018 / 1:52 PM / 2 months ago

Vice President Pence to lead U.S. delegation to Winter Olympics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence will lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month, a senior White House official said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool

Pence will also visit Alaska and Japan as part of the trip. Pence will review ICBM defense systems in Alaska and reaffirm to the leaders of Japan and South Korea that the United States is fully committed to stability in the region, the official said.

The Pyeongchang Olympics, which start on Feb. 9, coincide with high tensions on the Korean Peninsula due to North Korean nuclear tests and contentious exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea will also send high-ranking officials, athletes, and a cheering squad to the Olympics, a senior South Korean official said on Tuesday.

The U.S. State Department said in a briefing on Tuesday that there are not any current plans for the American delegation to meet with the North Korean delegation.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham has said he opposed inviting the North Korean delegation to the Games.

“I don’t mind talks with North Korea but I do have serious concerns about legitimizing the most barbaric leader on the planet,” Graham wrote in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.

Reporting by Blake Brittain; Editing by Andrew Hay

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