WASHINGTON (AP) — 10:10 a.m.
Vice President Mike Pence is departing Washington on Monday on a six-day Asia swing including a visit to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. His visit is set to focus less on sports than on the host country's bellicose neighbor to the north.
White House officials say Pence is traveling to Alaska, Japan, and South Korea to ensure North Korea doesn't "hijack" the games. The vice president will be holding symbolic events of his own to highlight the North's human rights abuses and nuclear ambitions.
In Alaska, Pence will tour missile defense facilities. In Japan, he will meet with Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and U.S. service members. In Korea, Pence will visit a memorial to the 46 South Korean sailors killed in a 2010 torpedo attack attributed to the North, and hold meetings with President Moon Jae-in.
Pence will leading the U.S. delegation to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. He'll bring to the games the father of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who died in 2017 shortly after he was released from North Korean detention.
With Congress barreling into another budget battle this week, Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Asia. During the government shutdown last month, he was in the Middle East.
And even as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation draws closer to President Donald Trump, Pence has so far stayed out of the conversation.
Both by coincidence and design, Pence has managed to skirt some of the biggest controversies of the Trump administration. And he's got a full schedule of political and international travel for the rest of 2018 that could help him steer around domestic troubles.
Pence departs Monday for Asia to lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics.
But the trip also provides him with an eject button as the budget battle heats up again.