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Mike Pence's Silence At The Olympics Speaks Volumes

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United States' Vice President Mike Pence, center, attends the men's 1500 meters at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea.
Bernat Armangue/AP
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The Olympic Games are often lauded as a symbol of world peace and the common thread that unites human beings all around the world.

But sometimes, the Olympics can be a well-lit stage for successes and failures in diplomacy.

Critics are stepping forward to comment on Vice President Mike Pence’s steely demeanor in the presence of North Korea’s representative at the olympics, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.

“He looked grumpy, and he looked like he was not the one in favor of the sides having this historic moment with a few tentative steps toward peace,” said news analyst Charlie Sennott on Boston Public Radio today. “That’s not the image we want to portray in the world.”

Sennott said Pence is normally “really good at understanding the choreography of the moment,” and said he was surprised that the vice president declined to stand during the stadium-wide standing ovation for the joint North and South Korean Women’s hockey team.

He also expressed surprise at Pence’s declining South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s invitation to a dinner that also held the North Korean delegation, and said it advanced a narrative of American aggression.

“[American government officials] are going to go forward with very aggressive calls for these sanctions to be held up, for the nuclear program to be ended," said Sennott. "There is this real feeling of [a] threat of military action by the United States in the air."

Sennott compared Pence’s stance with that of President Moon after she reached up to shake hands with Kim Yo-jong, “the first member of the Kim family to be in South Korea since the war ended in 1953.”

He called it an “historic moment.”

“There is the most delicate choreography that makes some of the figure skating looks easy, compared to what these guys are going to have to do to skate around these issues,” said Sennott.

Charlie Sennott is a WGBH News analyst and the executive director of The Ground Truth project. To hear his interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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