North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has threatened to reduce the United States to "ashes and darkness" and make U.S. ally Japan "disappear." He continues to test intercontinental ballistic missiles, with an eventual goal of attaching a nuclear weapon to one, in defiance of international warnings. He faces United Nations sanctions.
But, hey, isn't his sister great?
We don't know about you, but we have had more than our fill of fawning media coverage of Kim Yo-jong's visit to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
If a successful propaganda campaign on the international stage is what Kim Jong-un wanted, then his sister earned a gold medal.
In our view, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who led America's delegation to PyeongChang, conducted himself exactly as he should have in the face of adulation for Kim Yo-jong - he ignored her, even when she was seated behind him at the opening ceremony. Because relations between the United States and North Korea are extraordinarily delicate, we believe Pence was right to eschew social niceties and instead follow formal diplomatic protocol for high-level contact in order to prevent unintended signals or mixed messages.
We aren't suggesting Pence should have gone out of his way to unnecessarily insult or otherwise diminish Kim's sister or engage in bellicosity toward North Korea during her visit to the Olympics. As we have said before, we see little to no upside, but a potentially calamitous downside in the form of avoidable provocation to boastful, sarcastic rhetoric from the Trump administration directed at North Korea.
We will say, however, we saw nothing wrong with the father of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died in June after his release in a comatose state following 17 months in a North Korean prison, accompanying Pence as a guest. Fred Warmbier served as a symbolic balance to efforts by Kim Yo-jong at softening North Korea's image.
Don't get us wrong, we do not believe Kim Yo-jong's trip to South Korea was entirely without value. If having a North Korean team of athletes compete in the Winter Games and having Kim Jong-un's sister visit in support of them helped to thaw relations between North and South Korea even a little, that's a positive step in the right direction. In fact, we hope to see more such overtures between the two countries in the future.
We ask only for proper perspective - here, in South Korea and elsewhere - about the "charm offensive."
North Korea remains North Korea - a brutal place of authoritarianism and repression led by an unpredictable leader who consistently threatens other nations, including ours.
More than an appearance by his smiling sibling is needed from Kim Jong-un before the world should see North Korea in an entirely new light.