CNN Reporter: Olympics ‘Definitely a Diplomatic Win’ for North Korea


CNN international correspondent Will Ripley said Monday that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's sister's visit to the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was a diplomatic victory for North Korea and a defeat for the U.S.

Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean propaganda director and the supreme leader's sister, visited the Olympics last week in what various media outlets have called a "charm offensive." Ripley said she is "telegenic" and credited her effective diplomacy at hockey games and official dinners.

"If you're Kim Jong Un, it was definitely a diplomatic win," Ripley told CNN host Wolf Blitzer. "He sent his telegenic younger sister Kim Yo Jong here to Pyeongchang. She delivered a letter inviting South Korea's President Moon Jae In to visit North Korea. He accepted on principle, they had photo-ops at hockey games, they had dinners, smiles, handshakes."

"It was optics—everything that Kim Jong Un wanted," Ripley added.

He also said it was a win for Moon's administration, which has prioritized engaging with the North Koreans. Ripley said engagement is fulfilling his campaign promises, even though no progress has been made yet regarding denuclearization or human rights in the North.

Ripley then said the diplomatic loser in Pyongchang is the U.S.

"If you're the United States, however, well, it's kind of a loss," Ripley said. "Vice President [Mike] Pence came here talking very strongly against North Korea. He met with defectors, he brought the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being released from North Korean custody."

North Korea sentenced Otto Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor after he tried to steal a poster in 2016, and only released him when he was in a coma and near death.

Ripley said Pence's call for the South to disengage completely with the North was not heeded, causing Pence to emphasize what conditions ought to be met in talks. Ripley said the Trump administration is continuing "maximum pressure" and demanding the North Koreans receive no money under the table.

"But the U.S. really put in a box here," Ripley concluded.

The North Koreans came to an agreement with the host nation to have a combined Korean women's hockey team, and the athletes marched together as a unified Korea during the opening ceremony. The U.S. has expressed openness to talks while still emphasizing that Kim's regime must curtail its nuclear program.

Paul Crookston

Paul Crookston   Email Paul | Full Bio | RSS
Paul Crookston is a media analyst with the Washington Free Beacon. He was previously a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review. A 2016 graduate of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., he served as the managing editor of the Tartan campus newspaper. He is originally from Tampa, Fla., but he still roots for Dad’s Ohio teams. His Twitter handle is @P_Crookston. He can be reached at

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